In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
One of the Fathers tells us that the memory of the Cross has been placed halfway between the beginning of Lent and the week of the Lord’s Passion because when people start on a journey they are full of life and of energy; when they see the end, again, energy and courage flood into their hearts; but there is a moment half-way when despondency comes, when the tiredness of the journey begins to tell and when the end of it is not yet in sight. When we come to the Holy Week, we will be confronted with the Crucifixion, the Cross as the ultimate tragedy, the moment when the Lord God in an act of total surrender, of a gift of Himself unreserved dies, dies for us and dies our death with all the tragedy, the horror of it. But now the Cross is presented to us as victory.
The Cross is not only the instrument of Christ’s death; it’s also the instrument of Christ’s victory and of our salvation. And it is with hope that we can look at it and say, ‘Yes! If God has so trusted us, if He believes in us to such an extent as to give His life for us, then we can truly take up our own cross and follow Him, because this cross is not a sign of defeat, this cross is the sign of victory.
But the first step on this way is given us by the Lord Who says, ‘Whoever wishes to follow Me…’ — and He does not force us to do so, He leaves us free to turn away from Him, to let Him die for us while we have no concern for it. But if we want to follow Him, the first thing we must do is to renounce ourselves.
What does that actually mean? It means that we must turn away from our continuous concern with us and look farther afield, see the whole world in its tragedy, in its significance, in its meaning to God, and also turn to God himself. We concentrate so continuously on what we are, what we have, what we do not possess, what we need, what we long for, what we are afraid of. Is that the way in which we can live: in continuous hope for little things, in continuous fear, continuously tormented by greed, and fear, and dislikes, and hatred? What is there what we can regain, what we can make our own, which we can identify with? Very little!
Saint Paul says: what is there that you possess which is yours? — Nothing! Everything is given. Our existence is a gift of God, our life is a gift of God, our knowledge of Him is a gift of God, our physical well-being, our friendships, the beauty of the world — all this is given and we can do nothing either to possess it or to regain it if we begin to lose it. We cannot retain the vision of the world when we become blind, we cannot hear the harmony of the world if we go deaf… Then why should we concentrate so continuously on our own selves as though we were what we possess while we do not even possess what we are!
Let us therefore have the courage to recognize the meaning of the first Beatitude: Yes, I am poor, everything what I am, what I have, what I treasure or what I fear is a gift of God for which I can be grateful, it is an act of Divine love for which I can be so grateful! And if it is so, then I have understood what it means to be in the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God is that relationship between us and God which is love, between me and my neighbour which is love. And the moment we have understood this, we are in the Kingdom provided we have freed ourselves from our foolish imagination, foolish idea that “I am in my own right, I possess by my own power and strength”.
Let us then, in weeks to come, get more and more free of this concern, this centredness on what we imagine we have or we imagine we are; and realize that all that is a gift of God and therefore it cannot be lost. It is enough to be with Him to be possessed of all things; it is enough to be with Him to be free of the things earthly and yet as rich as God because God does not give only the little we long for or we need; He gives His whole own self, His life, and all He possesses.
Let us therefore make a start. But then, what is the self which we are, which is worth renouncing all the rest? Let us read the Gospel with attention, and let us single out those things of which we can say, ‘My heart is burning within me!’ Those things which cast a ray of light in our life, which give us courage and inspiration, which cleanse and renew us — because these things show us what we have in common with God, the way in which we are already now the likes of God, the way in which His image is already shining through the twilight of our being. Isn’t that a wonder! And if we concentrate on looking at what is of God in us then we may let go of what is not of God, of that very twilight or darkness to which we cling all the time imagining that it is us. While the twilight exists only because there is light in it, that light which the darkness cannot receive, but which dispels all darkness and lead us step by step to the day when there will be nothing but light, the light of God, the life of God.
Let us therefore concentrate in weeks to come towards this ascent, towards that freedom which will allow us to enter into the Passion of the Lord without a thought of ourselves, thinking only of Him, of the Mother of God in the horror that pierces Her heart and the distress and agony of the disciples. Amen.