Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Question of Love

Arise — go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me.
Little — be always little! Be simple, poor, childlike.
Preach the Gospel with your life — without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.
Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.
Love... love... love, never counting the cost.
Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast.
Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbour’s feet. Go without fear into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.
Pray always. I will be your rest.
The Little Mandate of Madonna House

Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me. We are going through the Little Mandate of MH each Tuesday on the blog, phrase by phrase. These are words that Catherine received, we believe from God, in the 1930s when she was discerning His call in her life. They are the heart of our spirituality, what we try to live and believe we are called to be and do in the world.

Here we have, appropriately for Lent, the call to take up the Cross and follow Christ. Catherine was initially disconcerted by this as it is different from what is in the Scriptures. Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him—the personal share of suffering or struggle we bear both as human beings living in a fallen world and as men and women striving to live the Gospel of love in that world.

Here, though, it is His cross, and the cross of the poor, that we are being asked to carry. Perhaps these are not greatly different things in lived reality, but there is a focus here in the Mandate that is worth pondering.

We are called to bear not only our own sufferings, but those of the suffering humanity. We are not meant to be defined by our own joys and sorrows, problems and challenges and gifts, but to always be broken open to the other, to the poor one before us, to the sorrows of humanity, be it the suffering people of Syria or Ukraine, or the neighbour down the street.

We are to carry their cross as well as our own, Simon of Cyrene-like in the world. And in that we find ourselves carrying the Cross of Jesus Christ as well—His own offering of Himself for the world and all humanity. Without doubt we carry the tiniest sliver of this weight; He alone, being God, carries the whole of it.

We think, perhaps understandably, of this whole cross-carrying business as a heavy, burdensome, sad, frightening thing. There is no question about the heaviness of it. And fear—well, we’re only human, and to fear suffering is not exactly something that needs an explanation. But it is not a sad reality—that is where the difference comes in.

Taking up ‘My cross (their cross)’ is not, fundamentally, a question of suffering first. It is a question of loving, not suffering. And love, while it is a heavy burden, is not a sad thing. What makes our lives sad is not the suffering we bear in them because of our love; our lives our made sad by selfishness, not love.

It is closing our hearts to others and (in that) to God that extinguishes the light within us and makes us grim functionaries or tragic failures. This is the secret of the cross, and it is impossible to communicate it in words alone. It has to be known experientially, and even then its secret is communicated in great hiddenness and silence.

‘The secret of the Cross is joy,’ Catherine wrote. And it is the joy of being a great lover—lover of God and lover of humanity. And this is what is at the heart of the Little Mandate—the heart of the Gospel, too. “I have come that my joy may be in you, and your joy be made complete.” (John 15: 11)

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