Receive the Cross with Joy
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:24-25) This is the instruction that Christ gives to his disciples. To follow Him requires one to turn over their life and take up the cross.
At first glance this does not strike one as a particularly pleasant requirement of discipleship. It demands everything. It requires struggle and discipline. It requires letting go of one’s own life. It seems to be a high price to pay.
We can be intimidated by this reality; that to follow Christ requires one to take up the cross. We get intimidated because we focus on what we might lose. When we focus on all we might lose, we can only see Christ as one who wishes to take from us, and our instinct it to resist. Even though we may hold in our hearts a great desire to follow Christ, if we can only see the sacrifice, we will find ourselves holding back. To receive the cross with joy, we will need to look beyond the sacrifice to the true heart of the invitation
In the Gospel of John, Jesus states that, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (Jn 3:17) Christ came that we might enter into the fullness of life in the Father. He did not come primarily to demand sacrifice but to draw us into the fulfillment of our longing – fullness of joy and life in the Father.
The reality is that we cannot receive all that He offers when we are clasping so closely to what we have. To receive we must first open our arms, open our hearts, open our lives. We must die to self that we might receive His gifts and live in Him. We must look beyond the sacrifice and focus on the gift being offered.
In this month of September we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14th). It is a wonderful opportunity to consider all that Christ offers when he offers us the cross. When we as Christians look upon the cross we can see more than an instrument of torture and execution. We can see more than a Father demanding the obedience of a Son. We see more than pain and suffering and death.
We see the enormity of Christ’s love for His people. We see how far he will go to bear witness to that love. We see that the Father led the Son to the cross not only that he may offer a sacrifice, but so that he may defeat death and offer fullness of life to His people. The heart of the mystery of the cross is not the sacrifice but the gift of life. Christ trusted that the Father had much to offer and so followed where the Father led.
When Christ invites us to pick up the cross to follow Him, he does so not primarily that we might show fidelity by sacrifice, but that we might enter into life, through dying to sin and selfishness.
The day before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, six of our Holy Cross religious will make their perpetual profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Through them they will commit their lives forever to serving the Lord and His Church in the Congregation of Holy Cross. They have learned to look beyond the sacrifice to the great joy that the Lord offers to them and to the Church through their offering.
At the time of their perpetual profession they will receive a crucifix to wear as a sign of their commitment. Just as that crucifix stands as a sign of Christ’s love and the fullness of life offered to us, these men will strive to become living witnesses to that very same love and life.
May God give us all the strength to see beyond the sacrifices placed before us to the great gifts that He wishes to bestow upon us.
O Crux Ave, Spes Unica. Hail the Cross our only hope.
Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary from the 1947 Holy Cross Directory
Most holy Virgin and Mother,
whose soul was pierced by the sword of sorrow
in the passion of your divine Son,
and who in his glorious Resurrection
was filled with never-ending joy at his triumph,
obtain for us who call upon you
so to be partakers in the trials of Holy Church
and the sorrows of our Holy Father,
as to be found worthy to rejoice with them
in the consolations for which we pray,
in the charity and peace
which come from Jesus Christ our Lord.
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