Early on in our faith formation, we learn about the cross. We hear about the cross of Jesus, and all the suffering he endured for our sake. We learn that Easter only comes after Good Friday. We learn that the Resurrection and the Life of the Risen Lord only follow the via dolorosa and Jesus’ suffering and death.
In more secular terms, we hear, ‘no guts, no glory.’ One can imagine this phrase being used in the face of great danger, such as the need to cross a raging river to avoid drowning, or to charge an enemy in the heat of battle. Another favorite is ‘no pain, no gain.’ This phrase is a motivational phrase for one working out to prepare for an athletic event, or perhaps only to lose weight.
These above mentioned phrases of course have their roots in Sacred Scripture, and ultimately in the life and Gosepl of Jesus. For example, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples (and us):
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.
For some reason, in many people’s day-to-day life, we are willing to make great sacrifices for temporal gain. We may forsake relationships for the sake of carreers. We may forgoe a healthy diet in order to have the kind of body the culture around us tells us is ‘beautiful’. Athletes invest huge amounts of their youth and time and endure tremendous rigors for fame and fortune. In other words, they are so focused on the ‘end goal’ they are willing to do almost anything.
Faith is no different, and yet people have such a difficult time making the same ‘connection’, or even making the same ‘sacrifices’ for something that is not fleeting, and has a far greater ‘satisfaction factor’. If we could only see the cross as the positive agent that it is in the faith journey. Sacrifice, the cross, is never easy, but until we allow ourself to ‘risk’ living fully the life of discipleship Jesus speaks of, we will never ‘taste’ and experience the truth of the Gospel, that it is only in losing one’s self that we find true life.
This life experienced as a result of such discipleship is truly rewarding! Once we experience this ‘Life’, then we will see more distinctly what Jesus is talking about. It is like the pianist, who only after hours and years of practice is capable of playing a beautiful concert.
May we willingly embrace the daily sacrifices which are a part of our life as disciples of Jesus, so that our life may be just one small part of the great symphony God envisions for this present moment, only to lead us into the great Choir of Life Everlasting!