The Royal Way of the Cross
There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross. Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him.
"Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).
To many this saying of Jesus seems hard. But how much harder will it be to hear that word of doom, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41).
Why, then, do you fear to take up the Cross, which is the road to the Kingdom?
In the Cross is salvation; in the Cross is life; in the Cross is protection against our enemies; in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the Cross is strength of mind; in the Cross is joy of spirit; in the Cross is excellence of virtue; in the Cross is perfection of holiness.
There is no salvation of soul, nor hope of eternal life, save in the Cross. Take up the Cross, therefore, and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24) and go forward into eternal life (Matt. 25:46). There is no other way to life and to true inner peace than the way and discipline of the cross. Go where you will, seek what you want, you will not find a higher way, nor a less exalted but safer way than the Way of the Cross.
If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry you. It will take you to where suffering comes to an end, a place other than here.
When you willingly carry your cross, every pang of tribulation is changed into hope of solace from God. Besides, with every affliction the spirit is strengthened by grace. For it is the grace of Christ, and not our own virtue, that gives us the power to overcome the flesh and the world. If you trust in your own strength, you will be unable to achieve any of these things. But if you trust in the Lord, you will be given strength from Heaven, and the world and the flesh will become subject to your will. Neither will you fear your enemy the Devil, if you are armed with faith and signed with the Cross of Christ.
This desire does not spring from man's own strength, but from the grace of Christ, which can and does effect such great things in the frail frame of man; so that which nature fears and avoids, he boldly meets and loves through ardor of spirit.
Decide then, like a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear bravely the cross of your Lord. It was out of love that he was crucified for you. Drink lovingly the cup of your Lord (Matt. 20:23) if you wish to be His friend, and to share all with Him. Prepare yourself to endure many trials and obstacles in this vale of tears; for such will be your lot wherever you are, and you will encounter them wherever you conceal yourself.
Jesus clearly urges both His own disciples and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying, "If any will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). Therefore, let this be our final resolve: "that through much tribulation we must enter the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
When you get to the point where for Christ’s sake suffering becomes sweet, consider yourself fortunate, for you have found paradise on earth.
Thomas à Kempis