Whoever shuns sacrifice, moves away from holiness

If all the acts of Christ's life are redemptive, the salvation of the human race culminates in the Cross, towards which Christ directs his whole life on earth: I have a baptism to receive, and how I feel urged until it is accomplished, he will say to his disciples on the road to Jerusalem. He reveals to them his uncontainable eagerness to give his life for us, and he gives us an example of his love for the Will of the Father by dying on the Cross. And it is on the Cross that the soul attains the fullness of identification with Christ. This is the deepest meaning of the acts of mortification and penance.

To be a disciple of the Lord, it is necessary to follow his advice: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. It is not possible to follow the Lord without the Cross. The words of Jesus are valid in all times, since they were addressed to all men, for whoever does not take up his cross and follow me - he says to each one of us - cannot be my disciple. To take up one's cross - the acceptance of the pain and setbacks that God permits for our purification, the costly fulfillment of one's duties, the Christian mortification assumed voluntarily - is an indispensable condition for following the Master.

"What would a Gospel, a Christianity without the Cross, without pain, without the sacrifice of pain? -Paul VI asked himself. It would be a Gospel, a Christianity without Redemption, without Salvation, of which - we must admit it here with merciless sincerity - we have absolute need. The Lord has saved us with the Cross; with his death he has given us hope again, the right to Life...". It would be a distorted Christianity that would not serve to reach Heaven, because "the world cannot be saved except by the Cross of Christ".

United to the Lord, voluntary mortification and passive mortifications acquire their deepest meaning. They are not something primarily directed to one's own perfection, or a way of patiently enduring the adversities of this life, but a participation in the mystery of the Redemption.

Mortification may seem to some to be madness or foolishness, a residue of other epochs that do not fit well with the advances and cultural level of our time. It can also be a sign of contradiction or a source of scandal for those who live forgetful of God. But all this should not be surprising: St. Paul already wrote that the Cross was a scandal for the Jews, folly for the Gentiles, and to the extent that Christians themselves lose the supernatural sense of their lives, they are reluctant to understand that Christ can only be followed through a life of sacrifice, close to the Cross. "If you are not mortified you will never be a soul of prayer". And St. Teresa points out: "To believe that (the Lord) admits to His friendship people who are given as gifts and without works is nonsense".

The same Apostles who follow Christ when He is acclaimed by multitudes, although they loved Him deeply and were even ready to give their lives for Him, do not follow Him to Calvary, because they were still - not having received the Holy Spirit - weak. There is a long way between following Christ when this following does not demand much, and identifying oneself fully with Him, through the tribulations, small and great, of a mortified life.

The Christian who goes through life systematically shunning sacrifice, who rebels in the face of pain, also distances himself from holiness and happiness, which is very close to the Cross, very close to Christ the Redeemer.