In God, we can find all that our hearts desire
In a series of statements many of us will hear at worship this weekend, the Lord Jesus presents our being his disciples in stark and uncompromising conditions.
"Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find (Matthew 10:37-39)."
In TS Eliot's poem, Little Gidding, on the theme of purgation and renewal, we find the phrase "costing not less than everything" - an apt term which describes well the nature of our communion with Christ and its implications for the totality of who we are.
Only God, who created our hearts, who knows their deepest desires and yearnings, can satisfy those longings with the grace of his infinite love.
We only truly find ourselves in loving relationship with our father and creator. All loving human relationships are reflections of this reality. Anything, however, which becomes an end in itself - including intimate earthly ties - leads to a dead end.
In God, we find all that our hearts desire. Everything that is good is his gift to us. In the right ordering and proper prioritising of our lives, to put God first will never result in any loss - only in eternal gain.
The road of the disciple is a path of negation - of leaving behind and striving onwards - of rising from and ascending upwards, drawn by God's grace and the love of Christ (II Cor 5:14).
We are drawn out of ourselves by our attraction to Jesus Christ. We are moved profoundly, to the very depths of our hearts, at the supreme example of his love for us on the cross.
Therefore, without hesitation, we will gladly take up our own crosses, at his invitation, to walk in his footsteps.
The way of the cross purifies our love of all that is self-interested, so that we become imitators, practitioners, of the selfless and self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ. This is the love that purifies, heals and saves the world. The cross invites us abandonment and surrender. It is a call to a trust in God that is entirely radical and absolute. We set out into a dark night of unknowing, guided by the fire Jesus has cast on the earth, from the arms of his cross (Luke 12:49).
The hymn writer, Isaac Watts, as he surveyed this "wondrous cross", declares that "love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, may all". St Benedict, in his holy rule, demanded of his monks, "let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ" (chapter 73).
To find this love above all loves fills the soul with immense joy beyond description. Without hesitation, having found this treasure, this priceless pearl (Matthew 13:44-45), you gladly hand over everything so as to be possessed by Christ alone - to know his delightful love - contented and at peace in the knowledge that, with Jesus, I am a son and daughter of his father - sharing the spirit of them both.
"My body and my heart faint with joy, God is my portion forever. I have made the Lord God my refuge and I will tell of all his works (Psalm 73:26-27)."