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Sanctification in Daily Work
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The Effingham Cross

I thought this picture was very appropriate during the last week of Lent this year. I took it on the way home from Illinois last week. It’s the Effingham Cross which sits right off the highway at the intersection of I-57 and I-70 at Effingham, IL. It’s almost 200 feet tall so it really gets your attention.

The cross is a great symbol for us at this time as we reflect on the pain and suffering that Jesus experienced before being crucified for us. We all have crosses to bear in our lives and rather than let them become stumbling blocks we can turn them into opportunities to grow closer to our Lord. I got that opportunity last week when I crashed off my bicycle on a city road and broke a rib and injured by shoulder. I’m having to do everything with my left arm right now and I’m right handed. It is not fun. But as I was starting to deal with the reality of it I just offered it up to Jesus in union with His suffering and for all who are suffering right now, especially some form of physical discomfort or pain. Yeah, it’s not easy to do. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and I catch myself doing that. But I’ve made it part of my daily examination of conscience which reminds me why this is a blessing.

Do You Really Want to Follow Jesus Christ?

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Crucifixion

Archbiship Chaput has a wonderful reflection on what it means to follow Christ that we should think about this Good Friday, from his book Render Unto Ceasar:

Jesus accepted every measure of suffering on the cross. He did it freely. He chose it. The Father made this sacrifice for us through his Son because he loves us. There is nothing weak or cowardly or life-denying about that kind of radical love – and any parent who has suffered along with a dying child instinctively knows it. The question we need to ask ourselves, if we call ourselves Christians today, is this: Do we really want to follow Jesus Christ and love as he did, or is it just too inconvenient? We can choose differently. We can choose the kind of routine, self-absorbed, halfhearted anesthetic Christianity for which Nietzsche had such contempt. It is certainly easier. It also costs less…

[R]eal discipleship always has a cost. We can’t follow Jesus Christ without sharing in his Cross…Discipleship demands more than reading about the Catholic faith or admiring the life of Jesus. Christ didn’t ask for our approval or agreement. He doesn’t need either. He asked us to follow him – radically, with all we have, and without caveats or reservations.

Following Christ means paying the same price out of love for others that Jesus paid to redeem us. (pp.39, 45)

    Crucifixion

Ave verum Corpus natum
de Maria Virgine:
Vere passum, immolatum
in Cruce pro homine.

Cuius latus perforatum
fluxit aqua et sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
mortis in examine.

O Iesu dulcis!
O Iesu pie!
O Iesu fili Mariae.

English:
Hail, true body,
born of the Virgin Mary:
Truly suffered,
died on the cross for mankind:

From who pierced side
flowed water and blood!
Be for us a foretaste
of death in the last hour!

O gentle Jesus!
O holy Jesus!
O Jesus, Son of Mary!

Other Good Friday related posts:
The Paradox of the Cross
Christ Teaches Us How to Die

Christ Descended into Hell

Today’s Office has a great meditation for Holy Saturday. Since Fr. Jay Toborowsky has already posted the whole reading on his blog, I will just point you in that direction. It is from what is only called an “ancient homily on Holy Saturday”. Check it out (h/t Driving Out the Snakes).

Surprise, surprise, I also have found an appropriate excerpt from Spe Salvi as well:

Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well- nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen—the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil being unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering—without ceasing to be suffering—becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise (37).

The Paradox of the Cross

In today’s culture it is considered loving for families to end the lives of their loved ones instead of allowing them to suffer and thus to suffer with them. We kill the unborn instead of giving birth to a disabled child, we starve and dehydrate the severely handicapped who are unable to communicate with us, and we hasten the death of the elderly and the terminally ill. All to avoid or eradicate suffering. But is this true love?

nullMother Teresa once said that true love means to “give until it hurts.” This is the true meaning of “consolation”. In his encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict explains that the Latin word con-solatio, consolation, “suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude” (para, 38). True love means sacrifice – sacrifice which requires the renunciation of self in such a way that we not only love the one who suffers, but we actually take on another’s suffering as our very own.

Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love. (38)

To become a person who truly loves is to suffer with the other and for others out of love. There is another quote from Mother Teresa that goes:

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

nullThis is the paradox of the Cross which we celebrate today. Love grows through suffering. Mother Teresa surely lived this out in her work with the poorest of the poor, no doubt using for herself the model of Christ’s Passion and death which is the model of true love and consolation. As Pope Benedict writes:

God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with. Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus’s Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises (39)

The Cross is for Christ a burden of love for all humankind. We are called to this same love as Christ has said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). There is “no greater love” than to lay down one’s life for another and, I would say, to “suffer with” the other. By taking up our own crosses and those of our suffering brothers and sisters, uniting them with the Cross of our Salvation, not only will all truly be consoled, but also our love, and our capacity to love more, will grow as a result.

If we ever want to see the image of true love, we have only to gaze upon the Cross.