“To the servant of God, every place is the right place, and every time is the right time.” (Saint Catherine of Sienna).
The other day I was speaking with a dear friend of mine who was enduring a terrible spiritual struggle while carrying her very heavy cross. She could not pray, she could not focus, she could not feel any connection with God. And so – courageously – she said her rosary and went to Mass and did all these things with a dry and beaten heart…
And I remember thinking – during our conversation – how much more she would have preferred another type of cross. It is not that she would have chosen a less heavy cross, it is that she would have chosen a different one – one that would have been of her own choosing!
And it got me to thinking about suffering and the Cross.
You know in my own life it is terribly easy for me to say to God that I will suffer anything for Him. But when I say these things, I usually qualify this request by adding, “Please send me THIS suffering and I will gladly suffer it for love of You and for the conversion of sinners.”
You see, what I find so difficult is to suffer not THIS suffering, but some DIFFERENT suffering that God sends to me!
For me, my greatest cross, is the grief that I bear for the child who became a saint before he was even born. I struggle very much for having lost my little baby before he was even born. That is a cross that I find incredibly and indescribably heavy. I spend my days asking for the strength to bear that little tiny cross of mine, even knowing that it is so small compared with the crosses that others bear. And yet, I would gladly accept another cross – or so I tell myself – if God so chose to allow me to carry it instead of this one...
The strange thing – in this silly thinking – is that if a cross is easy to bear then it gains no merit! In other words, if I accept a cross of my own choosing – because it is easy for me to bear – then the merit gained from the suffering is also diminished. It would be like knowing that I wished to lose weight and therefore offering God the sacrifice of fasting and abstinence (because I knew that I would need to do that anyway to lose weight and could hit two birds with one stone, so to speak, by offering that suffering to God). Now, offering the experience of weight loss (and all the associated inconveniences) to God would not be an acceptable suffering, but just as the sacrifice offered was limited by the benefits derived from the same sacrifice, so too would the merits gained from the sacrifice be less due to those benefits.
This is why Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was PERFECT and why God the Son Himself was the ONLY Being capable of offering a PERFECT sacrifice for our SALVATION…
Because God Himself GAINED NOTHING – ZERO – from that sacrifice... God did not need to die as we do, because God is eternal. God did not need to atone for sin because God is perfectly sinless. God did not need to have humans to love because God is perfect love in and of Himself in the PERFECT MYSTERY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY.
In fact, there was nothing that God got out of that sacrifice. We received all the benefits of salvation and ETERNAL LIFE, and God suffered all the weight of our guilt.
And what does this mean? Well, it means that I should be accepting every single cross that God chooses for me. And – not only that – I should be embracing those sacrifices – those crosses – too!
Saint Catherine of Sienna said, “To the servant of God, every place is the right place, and every time is the right time.”
And I think about that today, as I breathe through the Cross that God has chosen for me. Because even in bearing such a cross as that my sacrifice is imperfect. You see – I get more out of that Cross than God ever would… Not only do I receive the privilege of uniting my sufferings to the Sufferings of my Beloved, but I get a Saint – right here and now – to help me do that…
And when you look at it like that, how could I ever have chosen a different cross? How could I ever?
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.