I spend a lot of time looking at Crucifixes, sometimes just because it helps me to focus when I begin to pray, but also because--for quite a while--I have had this sense that there is a secret hidden there, something in addition to the obvious fact that we already know: Jesus died on the Cross to save us from our sins. I have dimly felt that there was something else just beyond my awareness, something I couldn't quite grasp, that I very much wanted to see and understand.
Last night, while praying during Adoration, I think I finally got it. It's something deceptively simple, but really important.
So, for example, when someone is sad or upset and in need of comfort--but we don't feel that great either--we choose to ignore our own bad mood and attend to theirs. When someone needs food, but we only have enough for ourselves, we give our food to them anyway. When we are irritated with someone because they insist on doing something their way--but it's different from our way, and we think we know how to do it better--we just smile and let go of our pride in our own "superiority," and we allow them do as they please without criticism. And if it comes to this, if we have to physically give up our own life in order to save someone else's, we do it, as radical as that sounds. Jesus did it first.
I am not an intellectual person, so hearing or reading a theological truth doesn't help me to apply it in my own life at all: I have to understand it in my heart, or nothing changes. Now I think I really do understand, and I know what to do in order to please the Person I adore, the Person to whom I have consecrated my life--the One I love so much, that for Him, no sacrifice seems too great.
The usual term for this in spirituality is "dying to self," but somehow, until now, I just never quite got it. Now I do. So, instead of thinking of a life of self-denial and complete generosity as a huge project that you cannot possibly achieve, just look at the Crucifix and remember this: you only have to take one small step right now, just make that one choice. Just do this thing that's offered to you in this present moment--for Jesus, because you love Him--and then, if you can, the next one and the one after that. We are all sinners and so we won't be able to make the selfless choice every time, but at least to me, it seems so much more doable when you look at it this way. +