Yesterday Lent began and today the Gospel of the Mass reminds us that in order to follow Christ it is necessary to carry one's own Cross: "And he said to them all: If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
The Lord addresses everyone and speaks of the daily Cross. These words of Jesus retain their fullest value today. They are words spoken to all men who want to follow him, for there is no Christianity without the Cross, for lazy and soft Christians, without a sense of sacrifice. The Lord's words express an indispensable condition: he who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. "A Christianity from which the cross of voluntary mortification and penance would be torn away, under the pretext that these practices are obscurantist residues, medievalisms unfit for a humanist epoch, this distorted Christianity would be so only in name; it would neither preserve the doctrine of the Gospel nor would it serve to direct the steps of men towards Christ". It would be a Christianity without Redemption, without Salvation.
One of the clearest symptoms that lukewarmness has entered a soul is precisely the abandonment of the Cross, of the little mortification, of everything that in some way supposes sacrifice and abnegation.
On the other hand, to flee from the Cross is to distance oneself from holiness and joy; because one of the fruits of a mortified soul is precisely the capacity to relate to God and to others, and also a profound peace in the midst of tribulation and external difficulties. The person who abandons mortification is trapped by the senses and becomes incapable of supernatural thought.
Without a spirit of sacrifice and mortification there is no progress in the interior life. St. John of the Cross says that if there are few who reach a high state of union with God, it is because many do not want to subject themselves "to greater disconsolation and mortification". And the same saint writes: "And never, if you want to possess Christ, seek him without the cross".
Let us not forget, then, that mortification is closely related to joy, and that when the heart is purified it becomes more humble to treat God and others. "This is the great paradox that Christian mortification carries with it. Apparently, accepting and, moreover, seeking suffering seems that it should make good Christians, in practice, the saddest beings, the men who "have the worst time".
"The reality is quite different. Mortification only produces sadness when selfishness is in excess and generosity and love of God are lacking. Sacrifice always brings with it joy in the midst of pain, the joy of doing God's will, of loving him with effort. Good Christians live quasi tristes, semper autem gaudentes (2 Cor 6:10): as if they were sad, but in reality always joyful".