Yesterday the Church celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows and the mystery of the way in which a Mary's motherly love for her Son and her participation in His suffering on the Cross was so real that it fulfilled the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart. "See all you who pass by the way if there is any suffering like my suffering." No one suffered more than Jesus Christ who did so purely out of love for us on the Cross. But anyone who has lost a child can surely give some insight to all of us on how such a tragedy is like the piercing of the heart of a parent's love.
We were made by God for happiness and for rejoicing in life and thus death, and anything related to it, brings intense discomfort for us and often the reaction of avoidance. One thing which we avoid is pain but in today's Gospel Jesus Christ specifically commands that welcome pain and suffering into our lives in a way very much like His own greatest suffering for us, such that he uses the very word which describes it: "Take up your cross".
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself" he tells us. And this is the reason why he uses the word "cross" in the context of self-denial: in His love for us God denies Himself, turns against Himself on the Cross by dying do that we might live. In order for us to truly love Him our compassion must be a sharing in the Cross through the "suffering with" another, the "com-passio" which is the expression of sincere self-giving.
But it is love which moves God to accept the cross and complete His self-offering through His death. And it is love, that thing which we seek above all others, that we will truly receive as we learn in all things to deny ourselves by taking up the Cross.
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?"
In a weakened or failing marriage, is it not often true that real communication and authentic love breaks down for the reason that spouses fail to deny themselves by truly listening, truly responding to the other with a sense of selfless compassion? Does not love mean compassion, the ability to suffer with another by listening and being with another through all of their life experiences, both good and bad?
And such is true with the greatest love of all: God's love for us which is never in doubt. Our love for God requires believing effort and faithful action. Love requires the witness which stands with God just as Mary stood by the Cross of her Son until the very end.
Can our love for God grow stronger if we are lacking in the generosity which puts other less important things aside each week in order to faithfully attend Mass on Sundays? Can our love for God be authentic if we are unwilling to defend the weakest among us whose lives are in jeopardy, the persons in the womb? Is our love truly witnessing for God when we exclude Him and His law from some of the actions we take and the decisions we make in our public life? Christian love stands with God until the very end!
It is here each week that we learn to carry the Cross: in the holy Mass which re-enacts and represents and makes real once again for us the saving passion of Jesus Christ which saves us from sin. Is it not more than worth our effort to put aside the pain of inconvenience which is necessary for us in order to meet the Lord at his altar each week here at holy Mass? And our witness of love is its own reward through the grace of Faith which answers God's call: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."