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June 2001

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23)

Just because you walk through the streets of the world, don't think that you can simply look at all the advertisements and buy any kind of publication from the newsagent or bookshop. 

Just because you are in the world, don't think that you can make every one of the world's ways your own: its free-and-easy experiences, immorality, abortion, divorce, hatred, violence, theft. 

No! No! You are in the world. No one can deny that. But you are a Christian and, therefore, you are not 'of the world' (cf John 17:14). 

This makes a great difference. It puts you among those who don't live according to what the world says, but according to what is said to you by the voice of God within. It is in the heart of each person and if you listen to it, you will be led into a kingdom that is not of this world, where true love, justice, purity, meekness and Gospel poverty are lived, and where self-control is the norm. 

Why do so many young people become followers of Eastern religions, to find silence and the secret of great spiritual teachers who, after a long process of mortification of their lesser selves, show a genuine love which impresses those who meet them? 

The quest of these young people is a natural reaction to the hubbub of the world, to the noise around us and within us, that leaves no room for silence in which to hear God's voice. 

But do you really need to go to the East, when for two thousand years Christ has been saying to you: 'Deny yourself.. deny yourself? 

The world comes at you like a river in spate and you must go against the current. For a Christian the world is like a jungle where you have to watch where you put your feet. And where should you put them? In the footprints that Christ himself made for you when he was on earth - in his words. Today he says to you again: 

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves..." 

This means that you might be disliked, misunderstood, laughed at, slandered. It might mean you will be isolated and have to accept losing face. It means abandoning an easy-going Christianity. But there is more: 

... take up their cross daily and follow me". 

Like it or not, the bitterness of suffering enters every life, including yours. Great and small sufferings come along every day. 

Do you want to dodge them? Do you rebel against them? Do you curse them? Then you are not a Christian. 

Christians love the cross and love suffering, even in the midst of tears, because they know the cross and suffering have value. It is not by chance that among the countless ways God might have chosen to save the world, he chose suffering. 

But remember, after carrying the cross and being nailed to it, Jesus rose from the dead. 

The resurrection is your destiny too, if instead of despising the pain that comes from living as a genuine Christian, and all the other pain life brings, you know how to accept it with love. Then you will see that the cross is the way of reaching, even here on earth, a joy you have never known. Your spiritual life will develop and the kingdom of God will become stronger in you. The world around you will fade away and seem to be made of cardboard. And you will no longer envy anyone. 

Then you will truly be able to call yourself a follower of Christ.

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me 

And, like Christ whom you have followed, you will be light and love for the countless wounds that afflict humanity today.

Chiara Lubich


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