Step 12: Self-Denial and Love of the Cross
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24)
I love You Jesus!
I desire You Jesus!
I need You Jesus!
I will Follow You Jesus!
I give myself to You Jesus!
The way we fulfill these aspirations is by embracing His way.
Father Andrew Apostoli once said that most of our crosses get their bitterness from our resistance to them. “I don’t want it” is the motto of a self-seeking cross bearer.
There was a group of pilgrim men who picked up their cross one day and began their journey toward the destined land. The piece of wood was awkwardly large in size. The weight of it tested their bearing yet was bearable nonetheless. After two days of walking in and out of the wilderness and the valleys one man allowed the thought of relief to enter his mind. “What if” he asked himself, “I saw an end off of my cross, I will have greater rest on the journey”. He did just that. On and on he convinced himself that one more chunk would do no harm to the success of his pilgrimage. Finally, the destined land was in sight, just over a fissure in the canyon. One by one the men began to lay down their cross over the earths division. Stepping onto, what was now a bridge, they walked the final steps of their journey with stride. But with a cross too short to use for the crossing, what became of the well rested man at the fissure?
Our earthly journey at times leads us to the foot of the cross and the invitation of Jesus impels us to take it up. Jesus himself entered this mortal world with a deep love for the cross because he knew its symbolic worth. Human eyes cannot grasp what the eyes of faith have identified, that the grace of God rests on the cross.
“By patience in bearing the crosses of life we make a perfect sacrifice to God” (Alphonsus 185). Jesus is our sure guide in this endeavor. He resigned to God’s will by picking up the cross given to him by the Father. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Patiently he walked and patiently we too must walk the way of loving acceptance which most often takes the form of life’s circumstances. If Jesus who is God, endured the pains and trials of life how can we go through life justifying our goodness apart from his. It is as if we walked on a road parallel to his without ever receiving the grace to walk with him in unity.
Likewise, an overly zealous person might deem it just to pick up a burden too heavy to carry yet, resigned to please God, he drags it along unapologetically. The merit of his life’s endurance is carried out in vain since the sacrificial offerings were not those requested by God.
Two things: Patience and Resignation to God’s Will!! it is that simple.
If any other path is taken the trials and burdens of life will become bitter and unbearable.
I guess we can return to St. Paul for the purifying truth of our undertaking. Because the symbol of the cross, as mentioned above, has worth. LOVE! “Love is patient” and with the right disposition, “love bears all things” (1 Cor. 13:4,7). Love requires sacrifice and sacrifice indicates oblation and oblation includes selflessness thus virtue. Patience then tries our virtue when exercising our love for God.
If the sufferings required of us are physically weighing us down due to an ailment or chronic sickness preventing us to pray altogether then St. Alphonsus Ligouri says “The best prayer you can say is to resign yourself to the will of God in the midst of your sufferings, uniting your pains to the pains of Jesus Christ and offering them as a sacrifice to God” (Alphonsus 193).
Another source of patience that can be practiced is that of aridity. When the desert lies before us and water does not seem to quench our thirst. Prayer seems fruitless and Christ seems distant. Our roses become thorns, our rivers now dry lands, our love now barren, our life now abandoned. This is the pivotal moment of love freely given. We demonstrate the greatest love for God at these moments when all seems lost. Those who are dearly loved by God will be called to enter into, what St. John of the Cross described as, the dark night as a means of purifying every vain sacrifice, desire, thought, deed, word, emotion of love offered to the Father.
And when the hour of death arrives, we will be prepared as were the pilgrims who laid down their cross at the fissure, to cross into the promised land of God, Heaven. There our hearts will be forever pure and we shall see God face to face.
“O Lord, permit me to die that I may come to see Thee face to face and enjoy Thee forever ‘where eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love him'” (1 Cor. 2:9).