By Nimmi Candappa
I have heard many a time mothers talk about the exquisite love they have for their newborn baby while at the same time having experienced the terrible pains of childbirth. A common cry of a fitness coach is ‘no pain, no gain’. Many an Olympian from the recent Games, I am sure, could verify that there was much they had sacrificed to reach their sporting goals. Each of us is likely to have examples in our lives of the benefits gained through the various crosses and difficulties we have experienced. The beautiful or beneficial that can come out of the painful. These examples of the paradox of gain from pain must sit uncomfortably in a society that increasingly seeks pain avoidance at almost any cost, a society that even advocates for death over “needless” physical pain.
Being surrounded and challenged by this secular thinking, as Catholics, we also might be tempted to look for the comfortable and pleasant, and seek to avoid the painful wherever possible. Instead, the paradox of the Cross presents us with an even greater challenge. Not only do we struggle with the various crosses in our lives, trusting that God can bring blessing from it all, but we are encouraged to forgive, repeatedly, those who contribute to these crosses, imitating the example of Jesus while He was dying on the cross.
On the 14 September of each year, the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Cross – celebrating both the finding of the actual cross that Jesus was crucified on, and the dedication of the Churches that commemorate this. The Feast, a reminder to us of the integral part the Cross plays in our lives, something we honour and exalt, rather than resist.
St Eugene had a particularly tangible experience of the Cross one Good Friday, in 1807. Struggling for years with the worldly ambitions for power, fame and wealth, he was blessed with a deep sense of the immense love God had for him individually, as he stood by the cross. This sense propelled him to change the focus of his life in a drastic way, gather others who were equally activated by God, and refocus his life on those abandoned and missing out on knowing about this love of God for us. The experience, among others, resulted in him spreading widely this sense of God to people in over 60 countries, touching innumerable lives. All this, the result of God’s exquisite love for each one of us, giving new life to humanity, through God’s terrible suffering on the cross.
In this next fortnight, we might like to identify specific difficulties we face in life. Placing them at the feet of the Cross, we can tell God about the struggle of carrying these crosses in our lives. We can ask St Eugene, who had to often accept the “chalice of bitterness” throughout his ministry, to help us grow in strength, and deepen our trust in the love, wisdom and mercy of God.