All things considered, Earth and Eternity are the ultimate realities we encounter; one is perishable, the other is everlasting. There is also a kind of bridge linking the two: how successful we are in crossing it would depend on how well we have walked our pilgrim way!

That there are no gains without pains, or that nothing comes for free, is a lesson we imbibe early in life. As aspirants to success (which means different things to different people), all of us take that saying seriously, lest we miss out on something special or precious. And that’s precisely what sets off the rat race we are accustomed to seeing in our day and age; and that’s what is behind our running from pillar to post in a desperate bid to make even the impossible possible in our lives. We seldom realize that frenziedly going out to secure a few pearls we could risk the loss of a fortune — for example, love in the family or peace in society!

Even if we aspire legitimately “to leave behind us footprints on the sands of time”, as Longfellow put it, it is important to have great souls as models to help make our lives sublime. As for us, we are fortunate to have in Our Lord Jesus Christ a model par excellence: not only does He teach us how to negotiate the twists and turns of our earthly existence but also points the way to our eternal destination. So if He be the lighthouse, no ship can go under.

Truly, the gains we seek in the world are but vanity of vanities. Hence, omnia vanitas — all is vanity — in the Book of Ecclesiastes is a pointed reference to the ultimate uselessness of the human effort; it is a direct opposite of what our Divine Master came into the world for and did: emptied Himself for our sake and unto death. This extreme sacrifice of love may not be our cup of tea — ordinary creatures like us believe we are here to live! But, surely, at least a pale imitation of that sacrifice is not only possible but also highly desirable.

A mother who sacrifices a night’s sleep for her child laid up in bed and the physician who has walked the extra mile to see that that child recovers quickly have both done their bit to partake of Calvary. An earnest desire on our part to put up with the dark nights of our souls and to make that ascent to Mount Carmel is an exercise always pleasing to our Father in Heaven. Paradoxical though it may seem, it is in dying to our selves — to our sins — that we live better lives! And if in business they believe that a ‘you attitude’ helps business grow, how much more should we as Christians think of a ‘You, Lord’ attitude so that we may grow in favour with the Only One that finally matters! This can send us several notches up the ladder of love and have peace spring in us.

This Lent, then, let us ask the Lord to increase our faith, our hope, our charity…. For our part, let us try to transform our own little crowns of thorns into crowns of patience, resignation and forgiveness. Let us ask God to grant us a spirit of detachment from worldly things; the gift of understanding the predicament of the less fortunate; a feeling of compassion towards all and sundry, and a dose of cheer even while in the thick of trials.

Come Easter, let us convert our sorrows into joys. If we don’t we will have only ourselves to blame. After all, wasn’t Our Lord’s Cross the biggest of them all… and for no fault of His! Let us straighten our paths for, if we don’t, the crown of thorns will be here to stay.

Finally, let us be quick to realise how truly glorious it will be if — in the manner of Our Lord — after having worn the crown of thorns and clung to the old rugged Cross, we can exchange it some day for the resplendent crown awaiting us on the other side of that bridge.

(Editorial, The Stella Maris Bulletin, Vol. VI, No. 4, Mar-May 2013. Reprinted in Renovação, Vol. LI, No. 5, 1-15 Mar 2013)