THAT’S right. The cross, given our human condition, is absolutely necessary in our life here on earth. We cannot even be human, much less, Christian, without the cross. Without the cross, we think that we can be absolutely on our own. Without the cross, the only possibility we have is to sin, to go against God, to demean our dignity as a human person and a child of God, meant to be in God’s image and likeness.
Without the cross, our freedom would easily go haywire, get unhinged and proceed to pursue false, albeit quite attractive goals. Without the cross, pride, vanity and their cohorts would easily dominate us. Humility and the privations and sufferings that it occasions automatically become a disvalue and are thrown out of the window.
That’s the reason why Christ, who only has our own good in his mind and heart, commanded us that if we want to follow him, we should deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,24) We need the cross more than we need air to breathe, food to eat.
We have to understand then that the cross is not something optional, though it has to be embraced as freely as possible. We should avoid thinking that since the cross is necessary, we should just force ourselves to accept it. That would be a wrong and dangerous attitude to have.
Thus, we have to spend time meditating on this indispensability of the cross in our life so we can form the proper attitude and the relevant skills. We cannot deny that our human condition at the moment is quite averse even to the mere mention of the cross. But this condition has to be overcome, with God’s grace, of course, but also with our own effort.
Just like anything else in life that we want to master, we need some training here. Thus, instead of just waiting for the cross to come, we should actively look for it. At the beginning, it is understandable that we take on small crosses so we can be prepared for the big ones. There has to be gradual assimilation of the importance of the cross in our daily life until the cross becomes an organic part of our life.
I remember a saint who wrote on the first page of his personal diary the following words: “In laetitia, nulla dies sine cruce.” (In joy, there is no day without the cross.) I think it’s a good motto to have and to guide us. We really should try our best to look, find and love the cross everyday.
The cross, of course, can come in many forms. There are the physical ones, the internal and external ones, the emotional and mental ones, the spiritual and moral ones. There also are the ordinary, small ones and the extraordinary, corporal and special ones.
We can start with the small crosses like eating less of what we like, guarding our senses like our eyes and mouth. We can put a tighter grip on our imagination and judgments, etc. Perhaps a relevant mortification would be to limit our use of the internet and the many gadgets that tend to distract us from our more important duties.
The more subtle forms of mortification are to develop the ability to put order into all the things of our day, observing the proper priorities, while at the same time, trying to be as productive as possible by learning how to put together in some kind of synergy the different tasks we have during the day.
When we are faithful in bearing these little crosses, then we can be more ready for the big ones, as when we are severely misunderstood and mistreated, when we fall into some serious sickness, when we suffer some crisis of one kind or another.
That’s when we can be ready for the final one: when we face our death and our transition to eternal life.