Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
We all have crosses. And indeed, as Franciscan penitents, we are exhorted to take the words of Christ to heart and live them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24) Knowing that this is our call and living it, however, are two different matters. How often, when a cross is given to us, do we turn our faces, pray for deliverance, tell the Lord, “Not this cross, Lord. It is much too heavy for me! I will carry a cross, just not this one.” How fickle and frail we are! I was struggling last week with a cross of my own when I felt led to pick up the writings of Luisa Piccarreta. Here is what I read:
“This morning, while seeing my adorable Jesus nailed to the Cross, I interiorly questioned myself: ‘What were Jesus’ thoughts in receiving the Cross?’
“Jesus then said, ‘My daughter, I embraced the Cross as if it were my most dear treasure. This is because in the Cross I gave a dowry to souls; I espoused them to Me. Then, in looking at the Cross—observing its length and width—I took pleasure in it, because I saw in it the sufficient dowries for all my spouses. Moreover, none of them could fear to marry Me, because in my own hands I had the Cross and the price of their dowry.
“‘For this reason, I wed the soul with only one condition: That if she accepts the small gifts that I send to her, meaning the crosses, it is a sign that she accepts Me as her Spouse. The wedding is executed, and I make the donation of a dowry to the soul.
“‘If on the other hand, the soul does not accept these small gifts, which means she does not resign herself to my Will, it all becomes annulled; and though I want to give her a dowry, I cannot. This is because in order to perform the wedding it is necessary that both parties, the soul and I, be in agreement. So if the soul does not accept my gifts, it means that she does not want to accept my betrothal.'”
Touché! This passage describes exactly what our Seraphic Father Francis lived while he was on earth. After his conversion, he embraced every cross and asked for more of them. He couldn’t get enough of crosses because he understood better than we ever could that betrothal to Christ makes every cross sweet, every pain glorious.
I have very little to add to the words of Jesus here. I believe they must be pondered deeply and applied to our lives in a new and more fervent way. In the words of Father Francis, “Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing.” Amen!