"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).
When Jesus uses the word “cross” he is referring to suffering as an “instrument of salvation.” This makes sense in reference to his suffering and death but many Christians wonder, isn’t what Jesus did enough? Why do we have to carry our crosses?
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 & suffering - but also to provide us with the ability (grace) to do what He did in the midst of the sufferings and hardships of this life; to love the way he did.
Jesus does not want our sorrows to be fruitless, but to become a cross - a means of elevating and sanctifying our souls and at the same time, an instrument of salvation for others. In reality, all suffering is transformed, changed into a cross as soon as we accept it from the hands of the Savior (Jesus, I trust in you), and cling to His will which transforms it for our spiritual advantage. This is key because suffering in itself does not work for the good or automatically make us holy. "If it did, all those in hell would be saved, for they endure great suffering and that pain is eternal. It is because Jesus suffered and we unite our pain to His that suffering changes and transforms us. It is because His Spirit dwells in our souls through Baptism that He suffers when we suffer" (Mother Angelica).
There are many spiritual advantages to allowing Jesus to transform our suffering and difficulties into crosses – instruments of salvation. Here are six:
1. Our crosses purify our faith, hope and love and, at the same time, heal the temporal consequences of our sins.
1 Peter 1:6-9
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls."
Romans 5:2-4, 10:
“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope…. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Each difficult situation that we experience has been sent or allowed by God to purify us (to free us to love) in a specific way. Just as when you go to the gym, you use different machines to lift weights so that all of your different muscles are strengthened; God is perfecting us in love through the combination of our trials. Holiness is not achieved through one difficult event or one difficult situation. Each struggle has something in it that we need – a hidden treasure. These hidden treasures will be revealed as we persevere. We will not be the same person at the end of the trial that we were at the beginning.
Hebrews 12:7, 11
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?…No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
2. Our crosses benefit others when we offer our sufferings up as a prayer of intercession for them.
On July 13, 1917 Our Lady of Fatima recommended to the three shepherd children:
“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice:
O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Before Our Lady appeared to the children, the Angel of Peace asked them to do this as well. On his second visit the Angel told the children:
“Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”
Lucia, trying to understand how to obey the angel, asks:
“How are we to make sacrifices?”
The Angel of Peace responded:
" Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it God as an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”
What does it mean to “make of everything a sacrifice”?
Our days our filled