As Christians our goal is to follow Christ ever more closely, to accept him coming ever more fully into our lives. Jesus made clear what following him involves. It involves a cross. “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.” (Mt. 10: 38). When describing the condition of following Jesus Mark adds the idea renouncing one’s self. (Mk.8: 34) Luke, in the parallel passage in his gospel, adds two significant words, saying the cross is to be taken up “every day”. (Lk. 9: 23) The Christian is to model his/her life on the life of Jesus.
The supreme act of Jesus’ life is what we call the Pascal Mystery, his passion, death, and resurrection. Of course, we cannot literally reproduce/imitate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There is, however, an important way in which we can imitate Jesus in his passion. It is in patient endurance in the face of the negatives, the difficulties, the suffering that inevitably come into one’s life.
On the way to Calvary Jesus fell repeatedly. In the Stations of the Cross we are invited to meditate of Jesus falling three times. There is also a tradition according to which Jesus fell, not tree but seven times. In any case the reason Jesus fell repeatedly is because we fall repeatedly and need his example in recovering from our fall. Jesus rose after each fall to continue his work of cross-bearing.
As we experience falls, especially repeated falls, we can become discouraged, despondent, depressed. We can be tempted to give up in our efforts to follow Jesus. The experience of inadequacy and loss are grounds for discouragement. Discouragement can come from looking at the past and focusing on the negative, the misfortunes, he failures. Discouragement can come from looking at the future and seeing no prospects of success, no security. The temptation to give in to discouragement cannot be avoided. It must not be allowed to devolve into self-pity.
For the Christian he solution is the gradual and painful conversion from self-centeredness to God centeredness. For the Christian the all-but-defeating experience of life is seen as an invitation to take up the cross, to identify with Jesus in his patient endurance on the road to Calvary.
It is helpful to recall that patient endurance enables us to say we are only undefeated because we keep on trying. A saying attributed to the Japanese is also helpful: “Fall seven times; get up eight.”