Saturday, March 1, 2008

Word of Promise #6

A man once asked a guru if he would help him find God. When the man finished speaking, the guru led him to the river and asked him to kneel beside the water. He then thrust the man's head under the water and held him there. The man soon began fighting to save himself but at the last possible moment, the guru lifted the man's head out of the water. As the seeker gasped for air, the holy man said, "When you desire to find God as much as you desired that one breath of air, you will find him."

(It is obvious that this guru wasn't worried about malpractice suits!) But this story is very 'on the mark'.

In Romans 12, St. Paul says, "I beseech you brethren, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God."

Wow. Present our bodies for sacrifice? What kind of craziness is that?

Don't worry; we are definitely not talking about masochism.

Sometimes suffering is inevitable. Masochistic people get charged up from suffering. Christians, on the other hand, don't like pain any more than anyone else. But to avoid suffering is to turn away from the goodness and truth that calls us to sometimes choose the harder, more painful way.

Jesus didn't want to go to the cross, but he went anyway, "for the joy that was set before him." He experienced terror in the garden of Gethsemane, repulsed by the agony he was about to endure. He certainly didn't want to experience the cross. At the same time, he knew that not accepting the cross would mean the abandonment of the mission he had come to the earth to fulfill. And so, in anticipation of the greater joy to come, he "set his face like a flint," as the Bible puts it, to go to Jerusalem.

The testimony of Jesus and all the saints since him is that sacrifice and suffering is an inevitable part of our spiritual life. Thankfully, spiritual life is not all pain and difficulty! But the greatest and the most holy among us will not avoid a cross. There is no significant spiritual work that is all ease and comfort. Modern life and modern Christianity notwithstanding, there is no real Christianity without a cross and there is no way to achieve anything of significance without sacrifice.

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