[Copyright TAN Books, reproduced with permission.]
Again I come to You, O my Crucified God, with the desire to penetrate more deeply into the mystery of the Cross.
1. The Cross is suffering viewed in the supernatural light of faith as an instrument of salvation and sanctification, and therefore, as an instrument of love. Seen in this light, the Cross is certainly worthy of love; it is the outstanding means of our sanctification. Our union with God cannot be accomplished except through suffering. St John of the Cross has explained the means by which the soul is to be purified, scraped to the bottom in order to reach this life of divine union. A programme of total mortification is required to break all our bonds, for we have within us many obstacles which keep us from bein entirely moved by God; and the accomplishment of this work is impossible without suffering. But active suffering, that is, the mortifications and penances inspired by our personal initiative, is not sufficient. We especially need passive suffering. In other words, the Lord Himself must make us suffer, not only in our body, but also in our soul, because we are so covered with rust, so full of miseries that our total purification is not possible unless God Himself intervenes directly. To plunge us into passive suffering is, therefore, one of His greatest works of mercy, a proof of His exceeding love.
When God acts in a soul in this way, it is a sign that He wants to bring it to very high perfection. It is precisely in these passive purifying sufferings that the concept of the cross is realized pre-eminently. In The Living Flame of Love (2,27), St John of the Cross asks why there are so few souls who reach the plenitude of the spiritual life; and he answers: "It is not because God wants to reserve this state for a few privileged souls, but because He finds so few souls disposed to accept the hard task of purification. Therefore, He stops purifying them, and they condemn themselves to mediocrity and advance no further." It is impossible to become united with God, without these spiritual sufferings, without bearing this "burden" of God. Suffering and interior desolation alone enlarge the powers of the soul and make it capable of embracing God Himself.
2. "O souls that seek to walk in security and comfort in spiritual things! If you did not but know how necessary it is to suffer and endure in order to reach this security!" (St John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love, 2,28). Suffering is requisite not only for the good of the soul, but also that the soul that may be able to glorify God and prove its love for Him. It is not a question of attaining perfection in order to enjoy it -- for the perfect soul never thinks of itself -- but that the soul may be wholly dedicated to the glory of God. It is in this sense that we read on the summit of the Mount of Perfection: "Only the honour and glory of God dwell on this mountain." Even as the Cross of Jesus was for Him the great means of rendering to the Father the glory that sinful man had refused Him, so should it be in regard to our cross: by means of suffering, we should expiate and repair our faults and the faults of others, in order to give God all the glory due Him.
In addition, as the Cross of Jesus was the supreme proof of His love for us, our cross too, should be the finest proof of our love for Him. The Son of God has revealed His infinite love for us by His death on the Cross; in like manner, the reality of our love is made apparent by the acceptance of sufferings out of love for Him. The Cross is, therefore, both the instrument and the work of love, as much that of God's love for as that of our love for Him.
The more God sanctifies us, the more He proves His love for us and gives us the opportunity of glorifying Him; but He sanctifies us only by means of the Cross -- the great Cross of Jesus to which we must unite our little cross.
Our sanctification, then, is proportionate to our experience of the Passion of Christ. Sufferings are, even in this sense, a proof of God's love for us. If we understood all this, how we should love the Cross!
"O Lord, the road of trials is the way by which You lead those You love, and the more You love them, the more trials You send them, since You admit to Your friendship only souls that love the Cross…. If You asked me whether I should prefer to endure all the trials in the world up to the end of time, and afterwards to gain a little more glory, or to have no trials and to attain one degree less of glory, I should answer that I would most gladly accept all the trials in exchange for a little more fruition in the understanding of Your wonders, for I see that the more we know You, the more we love and glorify You.
"No, I do not wish to make anything of passing troubles, when it is a question of procuring some glory for You who suffered so much for us.
"If I want to know, O my God, how You act toward those who beg You from the bottom of their heart to accomplish Your will in them, I have only to ask Your glorious Son, who addressed the same prayer to You in the Garden of Olives…. You fulfilled this wish in Him by giving Him up to all kinds of sorrows, insults, and persecutions, leaving Him finally to die on the Cross. This is what You gave the One whom You loved above all others. As long as we are in this world, these are Your gifts. You proportion them according to Your love for us; You give more to those You love more, and less to those You love less. You also give according to the courage You find in each of us, and according to our love for You, for if we love You much, we shall be able to suffer much for You; whereas if we love You only a little, we will suffer little" (St Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 18; 3; 32; Life 37).
O my God, increase my love, dilate my poor heart and make it able to endure much for love of You. I shall willingly accept suffering, in order to prove to You the reality of my love.