The cross we carry
Friday, August 9, 2019
18th Week in
1st Reading: Dt 4:32-40
Jesus said to his disciples, “If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys himself? There is nothing you can give to recover your own self. (…)
(Daily Gospel in the Assimilated Life Experience)
A mother superior travels through Europe. Another nun is driving. Suddenly a little demon jumps unto the hood of the car. “Turn the windshield wipers on”, says the mother superior. The nun obeys but the demon clings on. “What shall I do now?” the nun asks. “Switch on the windshield washer; I filled it up with holy water at the Vatican,” the mother superior replied. The nun turns on the windshield washer and the demon screams as the water burns his skin, but he clings on.
“Now what?” the nun insisted. “Show him your cross,” says the superior. The nun smiles, opens the window and shouts obscene words at the demon. “No, I didn’t mean that you go that nasty”, says the scandalized superior. “I’m just showing the demon my real cross” the nun explained.
We all have crosses to bear. Some crosses stem from external factors such as persecutions; others from internal factors such as compulsions. Persecutions revolve around the unjust exercise of freedom by bad people. Compulsions stem from bad habits we find hard to let go. Carrying our crosses means bearing persecutions meritoriously after trying non-violent means to convert our persecutors. Where compulsions involve bad habits, carrying our crosses means imposing stricter discipline upon ourselves.
We can do very little about persecutions since we cannot take the law into our own hands. But we can do a lot about our compulsions since we only have to change ourselves. This notwithstanding, the same can be very challenging. The following play of words is illustrative: HABIT is very hard to remove: if you remove H you still have “a bit”; when you remove H and A you still have “bit”; even if you remove H, A, and B you still have “it”.
The secret of conquering compulsions lies in the first part of Jesus’ advice. “Deny your selves”, Jesus said. Self-denial means saying no to self even in things that are not sinful in themselves. Ascetics call this “agere contra” (swimming against the tide). The repetition builds up will power, making us strong in overcoming temptations.
How repetitious must we be in order to build up stronger will power? As repetitious as the wiper of a car’s windshield throughout life’s journey is good enough! – (Atty.) Rev. Fr. Dan Domingo P. delos Angeles, Jr., D.M.
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