“Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world!”–so sings the Church on this day. In the Cross is our salvation, our strength against temptations, detachment from earthly pleasures; in the Cross is found the true love of God. We must, therefore, resolve to carry with patience the cross Jesus Christ sends, and die upon it for the sake of Jesus Christ Who died upon His Cross for the love of us.
In the Cross is our salvation, our strength against temptations, detachment from earthly pleasures; in the Cross is found the true love of God. We must, therefore, resolve to carry with patience that cross Jesus Christ sends us, and to die upon it for the sake of Jesus Christ Who died upon His Cross for the love of us. There is no other way to enter Heaven but to resign ourselves to tribulations until death. And thus may we find peace, even in suffering. When the cross comes, what means is there for enjoying peace, other than the uniting of ourselves to the Divine will? If we do not take this means, let us go where we will, let us do what we may, we shall never escape from the weight of the cross. On the other hand, if we carry it with good-will, it will bear us to Heaven, and give us peace upon earth.
What does he gain who refuses the cross? He increases its weight. But he who embraces it, and bears it with patience, lightens its weight, and the weight itself becomes a consolation; for God abounds with grace to all those who carry the cross with good-will in order to please Him. By the law of nature there is no pleasure in suffering; but Divine love, when it reigns in a heart, enables it to take delight in its sufferings.
Oh, that we would consider the happy condition we shall enjoy in Paradise, if we be faithful to God in enduring toils without lamenting; if we do not complain against God Who commands us to suffer, but say with Job: Let this be my comfort, that he should not spare in afflicting me, nor I contradict the words of the Holy One. (Job vi. 10). If we are sinners and have deserved hell, this should be our comfort in the tribulations which befall us, that we are chastised in this life; because this is the sure sign that God will deliver us from eternal chastisement. Miserable is that sinner who prospers in this world! Whoever suffers a bitter trial, let him cast a glance at the hell he has deserved, and thus the pains he endures will seem light. If, then, we have committed sins, this ought to be our continual prayer to God: “O Lord, spare not pains, but give me, I pray Thee, strength to endure them with patience, that I may not oppose myself to Thy holy will. I will not oppose the words of the Holy One; in everything I unite myself to that which Thou wilt appoint for me, saying always, with Jesus Christ: Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight.” (Matt. xi. 26).
The soul which is governed by Divine love seeks only God. When a man has given all the substance of his house for love, he will despise it as nothing. (Cant. viii. 7). He that loves God despises and renounces everything that does not help him to love God; and in all the good works that he does, in his penitential acts and his labours for the glory of God, he seeks not consolations and sweetnesses of spirit; it is enough for him to know that he pleases God. In a word, he ever strives in all things to deny himself, renouncing every pleasure of his own; and then he boasts of nothing and is puffed up with nothing; but calls himself an unprofitable servant, and, setting himself in the lowest place, he abandons himself to the Divine will and mercy.
We must change our tastes in order to become Saints. If we do not arrive at a state in which bitter appears sweet and sweet bitter, we shall never attain to a perfect union with God. In this consists all our security and perfection: in suffering with resignation all things that are contrary to our inclinations, as they happen to us day by day, whether they are small or great. And we must suffer them for those purposes for which the Lord desires that we should endure them, namely, to purify ourselves from the sins we have committed, to merit eternal life, and to please God–which is the chief and most noble end at which we aim in all our actions.
Let us, then, ever offer ourselves to God, to suffer every cross that He may send us; and let us take care to be ever ready to endure every toil for the love of Him, in order that, when it comes, we may be ready to embrace it, saying, as Jesus Christ said to Peter when He was taken in the Garden by the Jews to be led to death: The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (Jo. xviii. 11). God hath given me this cross for my good, and shall I say to Him that I will not receive it?
And whenever the weight of any cross seems very heavy, let us immediately have recourse to prayer, and God will give us strength to endure it meritoriously.
And let us then recollect what St. Paul said, that no tribulation of this world, however grievous it may be, can be compared with the glory which God prepares for us in the world to come. (Rom. viii. 18). Let us, therefore, reanimate our Faith whenever tribulations afflict us; let us first cast our eyes upon the crucified One Who was in agony for us upon the Cross, and let us look also at Paradise, and on the blessings that God prepares for those who suffer for His love; and thus we shall not be faint-hearted, but shall thank Him for the pains He gives us to suffer, and shall desire that He may give us even more. Oh, how the Saints rejoice in Heaven, not that they have possessed honours and pleasures upon earth, but that they have suffered for Jesus Christ! Everything that passes is trifling; that only is great which is eternal, and never passes away.
O my Jesus, how comforting is that which Thou sayest to me: Turn unto me, and I will turn to you. (Zack. i. 3). For the sake of creatures, and of my own miserable tastes, I have left Thee; now I leave all and turn to Thee; and I am confident that Thou wilt not reject me if I desire to love Thee; for Thou hast told me that Thou art ready to embrace me. Receive me, then, into Thy Grace: make me know the great Good that Thou art, and the love Thou hast borne to me, that I may no more leave Thee. O my Jesus, pardon me! O my Beloved, pardon me the offences I have committed against Thee. Give me Thy love and then do with me what Thou wilt; chastise me as much as Thou wilt; deprive me of everything, but deprive me not of Thyself. Were the whole world to come and offer me all its goods, I declare that I desire Thee alone, and nothing more. O my Mother Mary, recommend me to thy Son. He giveth thee whatever thou askest; in thee I trust.
(Good Friday Meditation – by St Alphonsus Liguori)