My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
On this third Sunday of Lent, we celebrate and venerate the Life-Giving Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lord said, Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Our Lord did not say, “I order you to do this and suffer, whether you want to or not.” Our Lord did not say, “I compel you to follow Me.” Rather, Our Lord said, “Whosoever wishes and comes of his own free will, let him follow Me.”
The Lord does not compel. He does not coerce. For whoever is unwilling to follow Him is thus unworthy of following Him.
Therefore, the Lord does not compel; but if anyone does wish to follow Him, the Lord calls that person and receives him. The willingness comes first, then the hearkening. If we are unwilling, we cannot hearken. Thus, all the virtues – and all the vices – depend on our will.
To follow our Lord in practice means to believe in our Lord Who calls us. And to go after Him means that we must keep and carry out His commandments. A true following of our Lord is not only to believe in Him, but also willingly to strive for the virtues. Our Saviour has given His life as the model of a good life for all those who wish to follow to Him. For indeed to follow Him means to strive to practice all the virtues.
Our Lord said: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospels, the same shall save it.
Blessed is he who loses his life for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s, for he truly does saves. Blessed is he who in this present life dies to self by laying aside that which is passionate, that which is disordered, that which is harmful, that which is sinful. For freely turning away from all things of the present is a praiseworthy noetic death. A sacrificial death of self and self-will through which, by God’s grace, you can receive life in return, supernatural life. In place of everything that exists you can receive, in a manner which is beyond comprehension, Him Who is beyond all that exists, the Lord God, the Giver of everything that is.
The Lord said: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Earthly treasures will not profit the unrighteous: it is righteousness that shall deliver from death. Thus, for those who wish to live in righteousness, ill-gotten physical possessions and a worldly way of thinking lead quickly to perdition. The carnal mind sets itself against God, and the carnally minded person swiftly becomes an enemy of God.
Filling your heart up with worldly things is avarice, and you know better than that. We have spoken before about how deadly avarice is to the life of charity.
All the goods of this world cannot give the soul the slightest rest or comfort when it has chosen exile and torment in eternity. In the present life, we have repentance and confession, we have almsgiving and other works of grace which are the fruits of a living faith. But the enemy of our souls, the devil, is ever quick to tempt us with varied worldly pleasures. He steals in by way of the little things and says to us: Indulge in something today; give to God tomorrow. Keep for yourself the things of the present; give God what belongs to the future.
And so we delay our repentance and our amendment of life. Then, far more quickly than we had ever dreamed, death will come suddenly upon and seize us, unreformed, unrepentant, and by our own choice unredeemed. For we have nothing to give in exchange for our soul; God, however, gave the precious Blood of His Only-begotten Son in exchange for our salvation.
The Lord said: Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
We must not only believe with our minds, but also confess with our mouths. In this way we are tempered and tested, strengthened and sustained. Since man is both interior and exterior, so also his sanctification. The soul is sanctified by faith; the body is sanctified by confession. As Saint Paul assures us, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Having been instructed in all these things, my friends, let us go forth joyfully in the practice of self-renunciation for the sake of the Lord. Let us esteem nothing higher than Him — neither riches, nor comfort, nor fame, nor physical pleasure nor even our life itself. Let us mortify our senses and our thoughts. Let us fulfill all God’s commandments diligently. Let us follow our Lord, daily taking up our cross.
The precious and life-giving Cross itself can enable us to pass through the sea of the passions safely. The precious and life-giving Cross can calm the waves and storms that batter us. The precious and life-giving Cross can transform bitterness and pain into goodness and spiritual sweetness. The precious and life-giving Cross can fill our souls with tenderness and serenity when we fall into sorrow and despondency.
The precious life-giving Cross itself can give us water flowing from the rock which is Christ our God; it can extinguish the flames of temptation; it can sweeten and calm our souls and bodies more than honey and oil; it can quench our thirst so that we thirst no more.
From all ages the faithful have had the precious and life-giving Cross as a sign of their guard and protector, Our Lord, the unassailable bulwark and fortification. So likewise today we keep this living tradition, and we venerate the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that in calling it to mind and to heart, we might be kept sure and unshaken in our Lenten abstinence, and in order to guide and help us in those deeds yet to be done.
Today taking up our own cross at the call of our Lord, let us also strive to complete the contest of the Fast which lies ahead of us. Let us mortify every passion and movement of the flesh. Let us endeavour to follow the commandments and counsels of the Lord with true diligence and with a ready will, that we also may obtain unending bliss; in Christ Jesus our Lord.