The best deal we have

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“IF any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Lk 9,23) Christ’s words may frighten us at first, but he is actually giving us the best deal we can ever have in this life.

We have to realize that there is no way we can follow Christ, who is our “way, truth and life” for us, other than complying with this requirement of denying ourselves and of taking up the cross daily.

And that’s because we are helplessly notorious in just following our way, independently of God, as if we can achieve our true joy and fulfillment by relying simply on our own will and ways.

That we have this notoriety can easily be proven by the fact that even our first parents, fresh from the hands of God and created in the state of original justice, managed to sin because at a certain point they chose to follow their own will, at the instigation of the tempting devil, instead of remaining faithful to God’s will.

But with what Christ is telling us about self-denial and the cross, we are given a way of how to resolve that predicament of ours. We should bring these words of Christ to heart, studying them well, asking for light so we may know how to convert these words into action on a daily basis.

We cannot deny that we have some kind of natural aversion to self-denial and the cross. Thus, we need to receive Christ’s words with faith. There’s no other way we can make sense out of them.

Only with faith can we see the redemptive value of suffering. Only with faith can we learn how to suffer properly. We have to realize that in this life of ours in this world, we can never avoid suffering in one form or another.

Suffering is part of our human condition that is wounded by sin and all sorts of weaknesses and our natural human limitations, and the fact that we are meant to live a supernatural life which we can never attain unless we are truly with God, and the fact is, we seldom are truly with God. We can only be completely suffering-free when we are with God in heaven.

But we are given a way of how to handle our suffering properly, to the extent of converting our suffering as a way to our own salvation and eternal happiness. And that is always to follow the example of Christ as he went through all the suffering in his redemptive life here on earth.

We have to be willing to suffer the way Christ suffered for all of us. That way, we attain the true essence of our humanity which is love, channeling the love of God for us in us. No wonder then that Christ himself said: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15,13)

No wonder either that as St. Peter said in his first Letter, “He (Christ) did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” (2,23) We have to learn to restrain our urge to make revenge whenever we are offended in some way by others.

When we suffer, let’s see to it that we quickly have to unite our suffering with the suffering of Christ. Only then can our suffering acquire its purifying, strengthening and redemptive value!