Isn't What Jesus Did Enough?
(This post is a continuation of My Heart as a Sanctuary Lamp)
We know why Jesus died on the cross but why do we have to carry our crosses? Wasn't what Jesus did enough?
Of course what Jesus did was "enough." That is not the right question. Rather, it should be: "Exactly what was it enough for?"
It was enough to not only save us from hell, eternal death, but also to provide us with the ability (grace) to do what He did in the here and now of this life; to love the way he did; to become "other Christs." After all, He said:
"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).
The scriptures tell us that it is the Father's desire that we, his children, are conformed completely to the image of his son (Christ) in this life, and one of the most effective ways the Holy Spirit brings this about is through our suffering which we offer with love, as Christ did, for the salvation of others. in Romans 8:29-30 it says:
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose; for those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."
Offering up our suffering - in my case my living, beating, shattered heart - as a living sacrifice has to do with understanding how Jesus saved us. Fr. John Bartunek, LC tells us that: “He did not save us by eliminating suffering from the world. He saved us by giving meaning to suffering. So he actually entered into our world of suffering - our fallen world - and took suffering upon himself to show us the way to respond to suffering - he obeyed the Father's will even when it cost him great suffering - so it was through suffering that he reestablished the connection between the fallen human family and the Father.
“Now when we are baptized we become members of Christ's body, the Mystical Body of Christ - that's another name for the Church. So when I'm baptized, I am in Christ, so therefore when suffering comes into my life, if I, through prayer, unite that suffering to the cross of Christ, I am somehow, mysteriously participating in the redemption of the world." There are many scriptures to support this:
"I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body the church."
"So please don't lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored."
I Corinthians 4:8-12 "In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute. We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not. Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us: but life in you."
2 Corinthians 1:5-7 "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us: so also by Christ doth our comfort abound. Now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation: or whether we be exhorted, it is for your exhortation and salvation, which worketh the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer. That our hope for you may be steadfast: knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation."
Our sacrifices and suffering have merit because they are offered in, with and through Christ and his perfect sacrifice. Another way of saying this is it is actually Christ, living in us, offering our suffering with his for the salvation of the world.
"With Christ I am nailed to the cross.I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
But not only does handling suffering this way bear fruit for others, this sacrifice and suffering that we bear in, with and through Christ, is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory - it is increasing our capacity to know and love God here on earth and the degree of His glory that we will participate in - in heaven. Every cross that we bear patiently and offer as an intercessory prayer for others, increases our glory from one degree to another:
“For the Spirit Himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him. The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.”
Romans 8:18, 28, 38
“What we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed in us...We know that all things work for good for those who love God...For I am convinced that neither life nor death...nor future things, nor powers nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."
This is precisely why Jesus said that carrying our crosses was necessary:
Luke 14: 27 "And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.