Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Your Cross Is You

"Remember, you are only an instrument.  Not yours to decide how or when or where you act.  I plan all that.  Make yourself very fit to do My work.  All that hinders your activity must be cured.

Mine is the Cross on which the burdens of the world are laid.  How foolish is any one of My disciples who seeks to bear his own burdens, when there is only one place for them - My Cross.

It is like a weary man on a hot and dusty road, bearing a heavy load, when all plans have been made for its carriage.  The road, the scenery, flowers, beauty around - all are lost.

But, My children, you may think I did say, "Take up your cross daily and follow Me."

Yes, but the cross given to each one of you is only a cross provided on which you can crucify the self of yours that hinders progress and Joy, and prevents the flow through your being of My invigorating Life and Spirit.

Listen to Me, love Me, joy in Me.  Rejoice."

Jesus, in God Calling

Today, in my women's study, On The Christian Meaning of Suffering, we reflected on the life of a woman named (Saint) Gianna Beretta Molla, who voluntarily gave her life at age 40 for her unborn child.  Upon discovering a large ovarian cyst during her second month of pregnancy, she refused an abortion or complete hysterectomy, both of which would have spared her life at the expense of her child's.  Instead, she chose surgical removal of the cyst, which would not compromise the baby, but would leave her vulnerable to further complications.  "A few days before the birth, anticipating that the delivery might be dangerous, she said to her husband, "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate:  choose the child - I insist on it.  Save him!" She had a healthy baby girl and died one week later.  She already had 3 children, ages 6, 5, and 3. 

Our room full of mothers took a collective deep breath, and followed it with "Well, she must have known her family would take good care of her children..., But...".  We admired her conviction but felt reasonably sure we lacked the same.  "I don't know if I could do it." echoed around the room.  There was a palpable weighing of consciences and the discomfort which always follows coming up short.

In the conversation that followed, we discussed our awareness of God's grace, and the fact that it only accompanies real situations.  Most of us have not been given that grace, because that situation is not our own.  Abandonment to Divine Providence offers the perfect advice at this uncomfortable juncture. "If it [the soul] should feel neither attraction nor grace to do those things that make the saints so much admired, it must, in justice to itself, say, 'God has willed it thus for the saints, but not for me.'"

We are all called to shoulder different crosses because we are unique, and the part of ourselves that "hinders progress and Joy" is what needs to be crucified.  However, most of us focus our attention outwardly, instead of focusing on what needs to change within.  We live in fear and wait for the next big cross to be lashed to our back.

 Etty Hillesum, a 29-year-old writer who died in Auschwitz, said, "Man suffers most through his fear of suffering."  "Reality is something one shoulders together with all the suffering that goes with it...But the idea of suffering (which is not the reality, for real suffering is always fruitful and can turn life into a precious thing) must be destroyed.  And if you destroy the ideas behind which life lies imprisoned as behind bars, then you liberate your true life, its real mainsprings, and you will also have the strength to bear real suffering, your own and the world's."

We throw away our peace in times of calm, when all is well.  We feel justified in skimming over the joys of today because we're "waiting for the other shoe to drop".  We want to be ready!  We're not sure for what, but we want to be ready. 

Instead of borrowing suffering, let's borrow a page from the diary of Sister Faustina, "I regard the time of peace as a time of preparation of victory..."

The Lord has already carried His Cross.  He is proven.  He is calling us to follow Him.  "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25).  Let's climb out from under our cross, and get on it.  It's the only way we can be like Him, and it's a lot easier for Him to carry.

Dear God of All That Is Good, Thank you for the gorgeous weather and so many opportunities to experience You.  Thank you for God Calling, and continually revealing Yourself and Your plan to us.  Thank you for the examples of the saints, and people who model heroic charity and courage.  Thank you for the reminder that real suffering is always bearable, because Your grace is abundant in reality.  Help me to destroy imagined suffering in my life.

 Lord, please give me the courage to climb upon my cross.  Help me to see and know those things that hinder my progress and Joy, and to do whatever is necessary to remove them.  Please give me and all others who are pursuing You, the grace of knowing when we are comparing our relationship with You to someone else's relationship with You, and spare us the confusion and feelings of inferiority that come with that comparison.  Thank You for making our burdens light and for the rest we find when we come to You.  Amen.

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