'Letting Go' of the Grain of our Life
Nothing happens to a grain if one holds onto it. It remains pent-up with the potential to sprout, but this potential remains unleashed. It is only when one let's go of a grain and surrenders it to the soil that its potential can now be unleashed –the grain can now sprout and bear life, yielding a harvest to feast upon and enjoy.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:24-25).
The Wisdom of the World & Our Inner Empty Void
“The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God” (1 Cor 3:19), and such pseudo wisdom scorns Jesus' message of self-renunciation, for the world says our life is our own, that our life is ours and ours alone –that we are the masters of our existence and that we ought to be in control of our lifestyles –that we should do what we want, how we want to and when we want to. Sounds appealing doesn’t it? That’s the problem, it does. For it tickles the whims of our fallen nature which loves the idea that we our gods unto ourselves. However everyone knows, at least deep down, that true happiness is never found when we are the ones who orchestrate our lives and our lifestyles, for despite having employed ourselves as the CEO’s of our existence we always remain yearning for something more, something deeper, something more meaningful. We all have this craving for that something which will make us happy, because we all have an inner void within which makes us feel incomplete and secretly lonely even when we our surrounded by a thousand friends, or by our very soul mate. The world says we need more things, or that someone special, or more experiences such as skydiving, more sex, or more money to ‘fill this void’. Yet anyone who has tried following this advice of the world cannot help but realise that despite ‘getting all these things’, that despite ‘finding that someone special’, and that despite ‘experiencing so many countless experiences’, that we are still not totally satisfied, not truly happy –mildly content maybe, comfortable even, but not happy, not complete.
The Wisdom of the Cross & Filling Our Inner Void
The wisdom of God, as St. Paul says, is the mystery of the Cross (1 Cor 1:17-19), which is the mystery of Jesus Christ who as God humbled Himself to be born of the Virgin Mary, who lived among us, worked among us, founded His Church –His Family – on Peter the first Pope and the Apostles, and who suffered and died on the Cross in order to pay the debt of our sins. For we couldn’t pay such a debt, for to offend an infinite God is to create an infinite debt, and how could we as finite beings pay an infinite debt? We could not. Yet it was humanity who sinned in the beginning, and so justice demanded that humanity had to pay this debt, and so how could we if we couldn’t? This is why the infinite God became man, because as both man and God, He –Jesus Christ – could pay this debt on our behalf by dying on the Cross in our stead, therefore purchasing our souls from death and sin by the currency of the blood He shed (1 Cor 6:20).
Attaining True Happiness
What was this happiness that Jesus had even in the midst of such evil, suffering and certain death? It was the happiness of being filled with the Father’s love, and of knowing that nothing could separate Him from this. Again we are not speaking of an emotional happiness because Christ would have emotionally felt anything but this, but we are speaking of a secret and interior happiness deep within the soul; a happiness Christ enjoyed beyond all since being both God and Man He always beheld the bliss of the Godhead –the beatific vision - before Him. So how can we enjoy such happiness? We must first realise that our many attempts of seeking happiness in the world have failed, that even our dearest and most loved ones cannot complete us – that we need something more. We then need the gift of faith, which we can always ask God for, to believe that this something more is actually a Someone More who is Jesus –“the way, the truth, and the life” –the wellspring and source of happiness.
Making Use of our Crosses
But what is the Cross? How can we pick it up daily if we don’t even know what it is? Let’s not worry about that too much, for there’s plenty of let downs, hardships, struggles, pain and grief which we will experience in life. Living the Christian life itself is a cross, believing in God in a secularist society, being Catholic, seeking to follow God's Will and not one's own, living out one's daily duties as a married person with a spouse and family, or as a single person, priest, nun or friar; these are all crosses. And if –despite complaints, moans and the confusion of why this is happening to us and to others – we can accept such crosses and give thanks for them at the end of the day then we will be following Christ and can be certain that we possess that lasting happiness within –a foretaste of eternal bliss to come. Not only this, we can be certain that our crosses aren’t going to waste if we embrace them in thanksgiving to God. Sure we’ll spit the dummy on occasion and St. Teresa herself said to God after injuring her leg: “Lord…Why would you let this happen?” And the response Jesus gave to her was: “This is how I treat my friends.” With Teresa humorously replying: “That must be why you have so few of them!” So even in our struggle to embrace our Cross –which consists of countless little crosses - we ought to thank God for such occasions –even if we think it absurd to do so; for then such crosses can serve to sanctify our soul, store up treasure in heaven, help God in the work of saving souls, and bring relief to the souls in purgatory.
The Problem of Suffering in the World
We mustn’t think however that sufferings are ‘crafted by God’ and sent upon us; for God is all Good –He would never do this and it is in fact against His nature. God merely permits such crosses to come upon the world and upon us, with such crosses crafted by original sin, our own sins, the sins of others, and the devil; with God permitting these crosses to come with the view of saving and sanctifying souls in mind. The mystery of suffering and evil in the world is no simple thing, and there’s no time to enumerate upon it here –but if we take the eyes of Christ which sees everything in the consideration of the eternal, and if we look to the Cross and mediate upon the Passion of Christ daily, we will come to understand that God is good and incapable of evil, and that crosses are opportunities to grow in love and holiness, and even to put pennies in the heavenly piggy bank. Of course we’re called to carry our own crosses, but at the same time we are called to lift the burden from our neighbour’s back.
The Happiness of the One who Embraces Their Cross
“A servant is not greater than his master” (Jn 15:20), thus if Christ suffered so must we who follow Him, but "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:4), and blessed are they who suffer for love of Christ, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10). For if a mother can bravely bear the cross of giving birth in order to reap the fruit of the happiness who is their child; then cannot we by God’s grace bravely bear the crosses of this life, of walking the hard and narrow road of faith in a world that mocks us as deluded fools, in order to reap the fruit of the happiness of eternal life? And if someone in love can bear all sorts of trials and can travel across the whole world, giving up “all the substance of his house for love” and considering “it all as if he had given up nothing” (Song 8:7b); then cannot we give up family, friends, possessions, comforts and our self-will out of love for God –considering nothing our loss, but instead a sweet sacrifice through which we can come to love God and all our neighbours alike without distinction?
So whilst those who follow the wisdom of the world – and I have heeded this wisdom before, and we’re all tempted by it daily – toil and labour, “rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil”, hollow and numb from their hopeless search for happiness in the world and acting all the while as the CEO’s of their life; they do so “in vain” whilst God “pours gifts on his beloved even whilst they sleep” (Ps 127:2). For unlike those that run away from the Cross, and who dictate their own lifestyles; those that trust and believe in God, who surrender their lives to Him, tailoring their lifestyle to the Gospel, and who follow Christ to Calvary, “rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy” and swell with an interior happiness that is felt emotionally at times, yet felt always and everywhere in the depth of one’s heart, for their ‘inner void’ is full, their life is in God’s hands, and they have no worries because for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and even in death, they know in faith that nothing can separate them from the happiness and love of Christ, a love that is divine and eternal, a love that makes one complete.