Chapter 11 – Lovers of the Cross
Lovers of the Cross
Are there many lovers of the Cross of Jesus? Thomas a Kempis tells us there are not. We study the life of Jesus, and we see it is all through a life of bitter, hard Cross-bearing. Not only did He carry the Cross on His way to Calvary—that was the heavy wooden Cross—but He carried it all the years of His life, form the first hour in the manger, to the last hour on Golgotha—the cross of poverty, hatred, and persecution from His enemies, the sins of the world, present, past, and future, the constant anticipation of all the sufferings He would have to undergo till the last day of His life. And what now about the followers of Jesus?
Our Lord speaks plainly enough: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow Me.” Again He says: “The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” “Many are called,”—to be Cross-bearing followers of Jesus—“but few are chosen.” “Enter ye at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are that enter by it. How narrow is the gate and straight is the way which leadeth to life; and how few there are who find it!” Do you see now how it is?
However, you must not be frightened because of the Cross—bearing followers of Jesus there are so few. No, indeed! Go up to Jesus and ask Him to place His Cross on your shoulders: He will do so gladly; and He will help you carry it” and so you, also, will become a lover of the Cross, and you may count yourself one of the few.
You must not do like many: love Jesus only for the sake of consolation; go with Him, rejoicing, only till the breaking of bread; follow Him only as long as you see His miracles. You must love Him for His own sake; drink the chalice when He offers it to you; follow Him to the very pain and ignominy of the Cross.
A venerable hermit of the desert once entered the great city of Alexandria, in Egypt. He wanted to visit a sick friend, who had called for him to come and see him before he died.
Some of the people, seeing him enter the city, and knowing him by his garb to be a Christian hermit, gathered around him and began to laugh at him, and mock at his faith in Christ, and abuse him in every imaginable way. But he remained quiet, so meek and patient, as if they had not done him the least wrong.
Amongst other things, they asked him whether his Christ had also worked miracles. A stranger passing by, probably a Christian also, said to them, in answer to their question: “If Christ had not worked a single miracle, this should be miracle enough for you, when you see this holy man, from faith in his Redeemer, bearing so patiently all your abuse, so that, in spite of all your wanton insults, you cannot exasperate him.”
See, my children, this hermit was a true follower of Jesus, an ardent lover of the Cross. So also must you strive to become. Be willing to give up everything for the love of your Saviour.
Though you may be “well-fixed,” as the expression is, that means, though you have plenty of money, so that you can get all the world can offer, be willing, for the love of Jesus, and if Jesus so will it, to give up all your wealth, to live in poverty and lowliness, like Jesus. And if you have good parents, loving brothers and sisters, kind friends, be willing to lose them all for Jesus’s sake; instead of these, be willing to have enemies and persecutors, like Jesus Himself; for He says: “Every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My Name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess everlasting life.”
You must be willing, moreover, to give up health, and all that you prize in connection with it, comeliness of person, your sight, your hearing, and so on—be willing to give up these for the love of Jesus, if so your Saviour should choose to visit you. But, how is all this to be understood? It is not said that you must really go and sacrifice all this—wealth, relations, friends, health, and so on. I said you must be willing to sacrifice these. You should be ready any time to make the sacrifice, if Jesus should desire it.
There is yet something else, better than those mentioned, which you must leave and give up for Jesus’ sake. “What is that?” asks The Following of Christ. “That, having left all things else, he leave also himself, and wholly go out of himself and retain nothing of “self-love.” That is, you must renounce yourself, your self-love, your self-will. Especially when obedience calls then you must deny yourself. When your parents, or any other of your superiors, command you to do something, you must go forthwith and do it, however unpleasant it may be.
“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself,” says Jesus. “It is of lest worth,” says St. Gregory the Great, “to renounce what one has, but of great worth is it to renounce what one is.” And Thomas a Kempis exclaims: “Oh, how much is the pure love of Jesus able to do when it is not mixed with any self-interest or self-love!”
This is to be a lover of the Cross.