Pick Up Your Cross, by Melinda Velez
ARE you feeling the weariness of the battle? As my spiritual director often says (who is also a diocesan priest), “Anyone who is trying to be holy today is going through the fire.”
Yes, that is true at all times in all periods of the Christian Church. But there is something different about our day. It’s as if the very bowels of hell have been emptied, and the adversary is disturbing not only the nations, but most especially and implacably every soul consecrated to God. Let us be honest and plain, brothers and sisters: the spirit of antichrist is everywhere today, having seeped like smoke even into the cracks in the Church. But where Satan is strong, God is always stronger!
This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world. You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:3-4)
This morning in prayer, the following thoughts came to me:
Take courage, child. To begin again is to be re-immersed in My Sacred Heart, a living flame that consumes all your sin and that which is not of Me. Remain in Me that I may purify and renew you. For to leave the Flames of Love is to enter into the cold of the flesh where every misdeed and evil is conceivable. Is it not simple, child? And yet it is also very difficult, because it demands your full attention; it demands that you resist your evil inclinations and tendencies. It demands a fight—a battle! And so, you must be willing to enter upon the way of the Cross… else you be swept away along the wide and easy road.
Think of your spiritual life like a car on the slope of a mountain. If it is not going forward, it is rolling backward. There is no in-between. That might seem like a tiring image to some. But the irony is, the more we remain centered in God, the more our souls are actually at rest. The fact that following Jesus is a battle is just that—a fact of life Jesus Himself underscored:
If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:22)
Daily, He said. Why? Because the enemy does not sleep; your flesh does not sleep; and the world and its opposition to God is unyielding. If we are to be followers of Christ, we have to recognize that we are engaged in a war cf. Eph 6:12 and that we must always remain “sober and alert”:
Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. (1 Pet 5:8-9)
This is the language of the Apostles! It is the language of our Lord! This does not mean, of course, that we become tense and morose. Quite the opposite, actually. But it means that we remain always close to and in the source of all our strength, which is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. cf. John 15:5 From that Fountain flows every grace, every strength, every help and aid and weapon necessary for the battle along the Way of the Cross. We are foolish if we leave this path! For then, we are truly on our own.
I am saying these things to you brothers and sisters because the time is short. cf. So Little Time Left If we have not learned to walk in the Way, have not learned to calm down and listen to His voice, to become men and women of prayer who are after the heart of God… how will we fair when civility begins to unravel and chaos begins to reign in our streets? But that is the big picture. The smaller picture is that already, many of us are undergoing the strongest of temptations and the most intense of trials. As I’ve said before, it seems the margin of error has been reduced, that the Lord is demanding of us now a constant vigilance and faithfulness to His Word. We can’t “play around” anymore, so to speak. And let us rejoice in this…!
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges. (Heb 12:4-6)
MARTYRDOM… NOTHING HAS CHANGED
No, nothing has changed, brothers and sisters: we are still called to martyrdom, to giving up our lives wholly for the Holy Trinity. This constant dying to self is the seed that, when it falls into the ground, dies so that it may bear an abundant harvest of fruit. Without the martydom of self, we remain a cold, sterile seed that instead of giving life, remains unfruitful, even for years.
The great St. Louis once wrote to his son in a letter:
Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin. —Liturgy of the Hours, Vol IV, p. 1347
Ah! Where do we hear such a clarion call to arms today? Such a challenge to spiritual maturity? To loyalty? To actually loving God till it hurts? And yet, without such an attitude today, we risk being swept away along the wide and easy road of compromise, laziness, and lukewarmness.
It means that ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They must be extraordinary families. They must be, what I do not hesitate to call, heroic Catholic families. Ordinary Catholic families are no match for the devil as he uses the media of communication to secularize and de-sacralize modern society. No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They have no choice. They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in the twenty-first century are the families of martyrs. Father, mother and children must be willing to die for their God-given convictions… —The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family, Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
As I closed my prayer today, I sensed the Lord say…
Take nothing for granted, especially your salvation, for I will spew from My mouth the lukewarm. How do you remain”hot,” then? By remaining moment by moment in My Sacred Heart, in the center of My will, in the center of Love itself, which is a white-hot flame that can never be quenched, that consumes without consuming and burns without devouring.
Waste no time! Come to Me!