Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Our Crosses

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Lk 9:23).

The crosses we encounter in our daily lives, when "taken up," or accepted cheerfully and offered to God, bring us in closer relationship to Our Lord, sanctifying us and creating in us a spirit strengthened against the temptations of the world.  Often in modern times crosses are viewed in a negative way, seen as a burden to be avoided.  However, instead we need to strive to recognize in them ways of purifying ourselves and making reparation for our sins.  

Thomas a Kempis spoke of daily crosses, saying, 
"To many the saying, ‘deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me,’ seems hard. How much harder, however, will the words on the Day of Judgment be: Depart from Me, you accursed ones, into the everlasting fire. Those who follow the cross willingly now, will not fear the last judgment. When the Lord comes to judge, the Sign of the Cross will be in the heavens; then will those servants of the cross, who in their lifetime made themselves one with the Crucified, draw near with great trust to Christ, the Judge.

Why are you afraid, then, to take up the cross when through it you can win an eternal kingdom? In the cross is salvation; in it is life; in it is protection from your enemies; in it is strength of mind; in it is joy of spirit; in it is the highest virtue; in the cross is perfect holiness.

Take up your cross and follow Jesus, and you will merit eternal life."

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St. Francis de Sales wrote a beautiful prayer entitled "Your Cross" in which he describes the cross as a gift.  May we also be able to see our crosses as gifts from God, welcoming them and embracing them as a means to reach Our Lord.

Your Cross
The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart.  This cross He sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too heavy for you.  He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
--St. Frances de Sales

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With the Lenten season drawing near it is common practice for Catholics to choose sacrifices to offer up for Lent.  These sacrifices become "little crosses" to bear throughout this penitential season in reparation for our sins and the sins of the world.  They, like our daily crosses, help to strengthen and purify us.  Our Lady encourages us, as she encouraged the three children at Fatima, to not only accept our crosses, but also embrace them, offering them for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins and offenses committed against our Lord and our Lady.  

As we begin the Lenten season, may we remember to embrace our "little crosses," as we should our daily crosses, not just giving up something to do it, but to give it up out of love for God.  May we be thankful each day for every chance to offer ourselves out of love for our Lord, just as He offered His life for love of us.  May we love the cross for love of Him.

An Act of Abandonment
O my God, I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine.  With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much!

It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love.  I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it.

I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve.
--St. Frances de Sales

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