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Many think this is a hard saying: "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus,"
but it will be much harder to hear those final words:
"Depart from me, (you) cursed, into everlasting fire."
When the Lord Jesus comes in judgement, all the servants of the cross who conformed themselves to Jesus crucified will approach Christ the judge with full confidence. Why do we then fear to carry the cross?
In the cross we have salvation; in the cross we have life; in the cross we have protection from our enemies. In the cross alone we find our eternal salvation and hope of everlasting life.
We take up our cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and we will pass into unending life. Everything is funded on the cross and everything depends on our taking up the cross. There is no other way to life and interior peace except the holy way of the cross and our daily dying to self.
Plan as we will and arrange everything as seems best to us, still we will find suffering in our lives.
Whether or not we wish it, we always will find that in the cross we will feel pain in our bodies or we will suffer affliction of spirit in our souls. Sometimes God may leave us to ourselves and sometimes our neighbors will trouble us; and often we will be wearisome to ourselves. God wants us to learn to endure affliction without relief, to submit ourselves wholly to Him and to become more humble by passing through adversity.
The cross, therefore, is always in readiness and everywhere awaits us.
Do we think that we can escape what no other mortal has ever been able to avoid? Do we know of any person who, during his or her life, was without some affliction? Even our Lord Jesus Christ, while He lived on this earth, was not for a single hour without the pain of His Passion. How is it that we seek a way that is different from that of the royal road, which alone is the road of the holy cross? Christ's entire life was a cross and a martyrdom, and we look for rest and pleasure for ourselves?
We are mistaken, oh, we are mistaken, if we seek everything other than affliction, for our whole mortal lie is full of misery and surrounded by crosses. The greater the height we reach in the spiritual life, the heavier we find our cross. We, though greatly afflicted in many ways, are still not without refreshing comfort for we recognize the great fruit that will be ours by enduring our crosses.
The more the flesh is worn away by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace. It is not according to our nature to bear the cross and to love it, to chastise the body and bring it into subjection, to avoid honors and be willing to suffer insults.
If we look at ourselves, we will realize that by ourselves we can do none of these, but if we put our trust in the Lord, He will send us strength from heaven empowering us, and the world and the flesh will be subject to our holy desires. We need to be determined then, and like good and faithful servants, carry the cross of our Lord Jesus who has crucified out of love for us. There is no escaping such sorrows and sufferings except by bearing them with patience. If we desire to be Christ's friends, then we drink lovingly of the chalice of the Lord.
Leave all consolations to God to dispose of as He wills, but be ready to bear afflictions and look upon them as the greatest consolations. When we have arrived at the point when we regard affliction as a pleasure for the sake of Christ, and affliction becomes something sweet, then all is well with us and we have found paradise here on earth. But so long as suffering is something that vexes us an we seek to avoid it, then things will go ill with us, for the very affliction that we are trying to escape will follow us wherever we go.
If we put our minds to doing what we have to do, that is suffering and dying, then everything will go better for us and we will find peace.
We still have to suffer if we wish to love Jesus and serve Him constantly.
Are we worthy to suffer something for Jesus' name? What glory would then be ours! How happy all the saints of God would be! How wonderfully we would nuture our neighbor's spiritual life!
With good reason, then, we should be willing to suffer a little for Christ when there are many who suffer far worse things to achieve worldly advancement. Know for certain that we must lead a life constantly dying to ourselves, and the more we will live to God.
Nothing is more acceptable to God nor is there anything more beneficial in this world, than being willing to suffer for Christ.
If we were given the choice, we ought to prefer to suffer adversity for Christ's sake rather than to be comforted by many consolations. In this way we would be more like Christ. If there were anything better suited for and more useful to our salvation than suffering, then Christ certainly would have shown us by His teaching and His example. Speaking to the disciples who followed Him and to those who desired to be his followers, Christ clearly urged them: "Whatsoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." The conclusion is that through many afflictions, we enter the Kingdom of God.
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