This beautiful phrase, the title of this article, is attributed to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, the Capuchin saint who lived in pain for 50 years with his stigmatic body, and gave everyone good advice and elevated them with his miracles, especially through the Sacrament of Confession. No one more authoritative than him had something to say that was so true and contemporary.
We know how the Lord has emptied Himself of His divinity and made Himself small, made Himself human, made Himself poor from all the goods of heaven to make us rich in His riches, as Corinthians says. We also know how many miracles He has performed, how many dead He has raised, how many times men of earthly and angelic natures have bowed in obedience at his feet in His healings and exorcisms while the seas and winds raged.
Of course, we all want to follow Jesus, to be like Him, to live His life with His thoughts, His feelings, His love for the Father and for men. He is the Lord of miracles and wonders, the Son of man beloved and followed by many who, in their time, followed him like a rabbi wherever He went – except the cross. Our holy desire, however, tends to be more attentive to miracles and wonders than to passion and the cross.
Even His most faithful disciples, those whom he had chosen and called by name, with eternal election and eternal affection, even they abandoned Him on the cross, except for John. Sadly, many people today, like those in His time, seek the Lord for what He can give them and not for what they can “give” to the Lord. They seek the Lord in His glory, but flee on His cross.
In order to understand this love-exchange mystery between us and Jesus, one must know that the Lord has taken our humanity and will never be separated from it. Jesus, forever and ever, is God and man. He is also the head of the Church, that is, our head, the one we follow. This, added to the daily miracle of the Eucharist, means that the Lord who became flesh shares with us all our lives: sufferings and joys, pains and happiness.
Love, as we know, is never one-sided and implies sharing. It is precisely because Jesus loves us that He shares with us His glory: the healings, the miracles, the resurrections in body and soul, in the Church, in society, in nature. But sharing His cross is the very foundation of His love for us and ours for him.
In the incarnation, He assumed the most powerful source of our suffering and the cause of our death: sin. Never having sinned, he took upon himself, in His passion and cross all the suffering and death that sin had brought into the world. The result was His death on the cross and His Resurrection.
We, as the body of Christ, are called to love Him as the body of His body, the soul of His soul, as His wife, as the Church. Love, however, consists in being present in both glory and pain. True, our acts of love for Christ add nothing to His cross. However, they add – and much – to our salvation and that of the world. It is in this sense that St. Paul says, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions”, Colossians 1:24.
In our life, we don’t need to seek suffering, right? It simply reaches us in every way as a consequence of the sin that has marked mankind. The great good news is that we can, through the cross of Christ, be free from this suffering just as He was freed: suffering with Him and the Father and taking with Him our cross. But beware: suffering only becomes a cross with two conditions: first, that we unite it with the cross of Christ, which overcomes sin, pain, and death; second, that we transform it in an act of love for Him and for men who do not yet know Him, that is, those who do not love and obey Him.
The most beautiful thing about this whole story is that as we seek Christ not only in His glory but also on His cross, we will be worthy of both. That is, we will live a life of giving love to Christ for the sake of man. Equally beautiful, however, is that as we embrace the cross of Christ through our daily sufferings, from the smallest to the greatest, we will be walking towards… His glory.
That’s right! The way to the glory of Christ and heaven is to unite in love with him, embracing for love the suffering he has embraced in His passion. There is no other way to glory. And there is no authentic glory other than that of Christ. This is why, rightly, the saint says: if you only seek Christ in His glory, then you are not worthy of His cross. The reverse is also true: if you seek Christ on His cross, you will be worthy of His glory.