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(Part 1)


Many of our brethren today are undergoing intense suffering. There are those who are seriously ill, those who no longer know how to meet their financial needs, those who are seeing a loved one seriously going astray, those who continue to be maligned and attacked even by brethren.

It is acceptable for them to ask the Lord for relief, even to beg to let their cups pass from them. But in the meantime that they carry crosses, they are to embrace them and rejoice, for God is fulfilling a purpose. God is purifying them. God is teaching them. And God is preparing the way to glory.

The way of the cross is God’s way. The gospel of the cross is the authentic gospel. If God then wants us on the right path, why would He withhold the cross?

But many reject the cross. Certainly the secular world does. The world is preoccupied with comfort, pleasure, success. But are these not the very things that can draw us away from God?

So we must decide. Do we want to be formed by the world or by Christ? Do we want the wide paths of the world that lead to destruction, or the narrow path of God that leads to abundant life? How do we see abundant life anyway? Is it a life of wealth, power and pleasure? God certainly can give you those. But the abundant life, a life lived to the full, is a life in Christ, a life of holiness, a life of obedience to God’s will.

How do you achieve such a life? It is only by way of the cross.

In this Lenten season, I bring you to one of the many lessons of Lamentations (from Forty Days of Lamentations).

* * *

Lamentations 116 – Crises in life are necessary for deeper faith, love and hope.
Crises in life can be our crosses. God allows crosses in life in order to purify us, draw us closer to Himself, and deepen our faith. When we go through the fire, the impurities are burned away. When we are pruned, which is painful, we bear more fruit (Jn 15:2). When we are disciplined or reproved by God, that is when we are loved as His sons and we are able to grow in holiness (Hb 12:5-8,10-11).

If we had a comfortable life, we would not learn endurance and sacrifice. If we all had agreeable friends and brethren, we would not learn forbearance and forgiveness and unconditional love. If God answered all of our prayers at once, we would not learn perseverance and persistence. If inviting others to a renewal program was easy and always fruitful, we would not spend as much time in prayer and in doing spiritual warfare. If life went smoothly, we would not have as much need for God. If there were no deep crises in life, we would not have to look to hope in God.

Crosses, occasioned by crises, are God’s blessing for us. And so Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily, if we are to follow him (Lk 9:23). For our part, we can rejoice and like Paul aver, “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).
Our lesson: Embrace the cross.

* * *

Living out this lesson will take a lifetime. But it starts with understanding. Then with acceptance, even just intellectually. And here you have to cope with a human mind formed by a secular world. But you are already in Christ, are you not? Jesus then desires to form your mind and your heart. But you need to be willing.

Go now before the crucifix. Meditate on the great love of God in sending His very own Son to the cross. Hear Jesus say, “Come follow me.”

Ask Jesus for grace and strength. Kiss the crucifix. Then go on your way.

(March 23, 2009)

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