Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crosses At Every Turn

Someone posted a quotation today from St. Francis de Sales. At first it felt like a punch in the stomach. How can I ever have a perspective on life like this?
"I see crosses at every turn. My flesh shudders over it, but my heart adores them. Yes, I hail you, crosses little and great, I hail you, and kiss your feet, unworthy of the honor of your shadow."
And the saints are not kidding. They see it. They really do. Even as they feel the pain, they see the glory. How? Of course I know the answer to that question. It’s God’s grace, and also the freedom that His grace awakens within them, the freedom to love, which means–in this life–the freedom to suffer. I can’t look at the face of Blessed Chiara Badano every day without remembering that this is really true. But how can this become an experience for me. Do I even want it, really?

Do I "adore" the crosses in my own life with "my heart"? Wow. I see crosses at every turn, and I pray, "can you take this one away, please?" At best I manage a "Sigh. Okay, here we go again!" That’s my best...which is not very often.

Most of the time, when I see the cross (which really means when I hear that call–all throughout the day– to love, to give of myself), I try to evade it, sneak away from it, or if necessary just run, run, run. I know I’m not alone in this. Let’s face it: the Gospel verse that describes the way we Christians usually live is the one that tells us what the disciples did when Jesus was arrested: “And they all forsook Him and fled” (Mark 14:50).

I spend a good part of the day running away from my life.

And there are so many places to escape. Of course there are the distractions of technology, the media, and the consumer culture. But there are even better ones: the distractions of my ideas and plans, which are so good and important, after all. It is so much easier to talk or write about Jesus with beautiful words than it is to face that moment when my child needs the presence and the love of her father, even to do something very simple, like make a sandwich!

And I am actually called to raise these children. I am called to witness to them about the love of God. I hide from this in a thousand ways. To look upon it is overwhelming.

And then there is all the pain in life that can’t be avoided, that just digs into me and tries to engender bitterness.

But God does not leave me alone.

I run from the cross and I hide, but He passes through my walls and my locked doors and shows Himself again as the Risen One. He responds to my failure with His mercy. He shows me myself, but He also shows me Himself, and He says, “Do not be afraid. It is I.”

Do not be afraid.

In the end we all must suffer. To find His glory in the midst of our suffering: this is the “narrow road.”

I hardly understand what it means, concretely, for me. So I must pray, I must beg Him to make me more the person He wills me to be. And I must struggle to do good, to continually begin again, to cry out again and again to see the face of God and be changed by Him because I know that He is here. He is Jesus.

 I still marvel and gasp at St. Francis de Sales, but there is, I think, a tiny bit of that “heart” here, a beginning of something new.

In the end, we all must suffer. Is there anyone, really, who is not suffering right now?

And what would I have without Jesus? Just a jungle of suffering and no response except, "Go away, I hate you" as it devours me. Or perhaps, a desperate cry for help lifted to the mute heavens.

Jesus makes all the difference. Jesus is everything