The disciple is not greater than the master. It would be a miracle to see a Christian without a cross, except in heaven. The one who has no cross is no follower of the crucified. Our destiny here on earth is to conquer the world and ourselves by suffering in imitation of Jesus Christ, in order that we might be eternally happy with him forever. We have all eternity to enjoy, but only a few moments to suffer, to testify to our sincere and ardent love for our crucified Savior and our God.
The only true success in this life comes from following Jesus Christ. If we for a moment seek success elsewhere, it matters not how high or useful it may appear to us, we are deceived and we live and act in vain for Jesus Christ is the only Way, the whole Truth and the true Life. Therefore we walk astray when we act without Jesus.
In today’s Lenten reflection, Father Hecker writes that every Christian has a cross. It comes with discipleship. As he says, “the one that has no cross is no follower of the crucified.” In the last reflection Hecker spoke about the “weight” of the cross; as it weighs more than we can bear so we must depend on God to help us carry it. Here Hecker notes that the cross binds us to Christ crucified. It is the way in which we follow Jesus. He writes, “our destiny here on earth is to conquer the world and ourselves.” We do that through the cross.
Everyone suffers. No matter how successful or secure you are, no one who lives in our world escapes from the reality of suffering. Because we do not want to suffer, in attempting to escape from it or deny it, we become more broken. Yet instead of running from sin and brokenness, we call on the power of Christ. As Christians we take on suffering and go through it with the sure knowledge that Christ has already overcome it, and that he will carry us through these moments. The more we encounter suffering with faith, fear dissipates, hope replaces fear, and we can respond with love. In this sense our response as Christians to the suffering we encounter in our lives both reflects, mirrors and channels the paschal mystery of Christ which we celebrate in Easter.
Life is hard and uneven but as Father Hecker reminds us that while no one escapes the hardness of life, Christians have a way of transforming their suffering by connecting it to the suffering and death of Christ. As the brothers and sisters of Jesus, our suffering becomes a part of Christ’s suffering. This is how God conquers and this is how we his followers are called to participate in God’s redemption of our world.
May your experience of Lent deepen your faith, strengthen your hope and support your loving response to others.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.