Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
“For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul…”
The starkness of these words are the challenge Our Lord throws out to each one of us. It is a challenge we cannot avoid, one that will come to each of us personally.
What is it, then, to lose the world and to gain one’s soul? It is to be like Christ Jesus. The Imitation of Christ, perhaps the one book after the Bible that has been most formative of Christians – saints chief among them – for the past five hundred years, relentlessly points to the need of embracing the Cross. In its infinite depth of meaning, the Cross points to a rejection of – and then by – the world in order to embrace the God who is always rejected by the world.
Of course, we want to “have our cake and eat it” too, and perhaps much of the current deflation in our Catholic identity comes precisely from the presumption that being successful – rich, powerful – and following the mores of the prevailing culture is but the first course of the heavenly banquet. In fact, the witness of an army of saints following Our Lord’s steps would indicate the very opposite. Saints – like today’s Saint Edith Stein – become holy by being conformed to the Crucified Christ. They lose the world: and gain their souls. Are we prepared for this radical solitude? Because in the end, we will be judged quite alone. The world, and everyone in it, will have fallen away. And where will we be? Where we have been all along: with God and His crucified and glorious saints, or with the world and its grinning, glad-handing agents.