Once a senator was invited to receive a warship that had returned from a mission. The senator went with his wife and they entered the ship and were given a guided tour. After the tour the senator’s wife began to praise the cleanliness of the ship. The officer who was giving the tour replied: “Mrs., I thank you for your words because you understand the daily sacrifice we make to clean it, but you will understand that on the seas we cannot have a dirty ship, since it would mean that it is not useful for it purpose.” A dirty warship means that its weapons are not ready for combat.
An interesting appreciation, because in the spiritual life something similar happens, without the daily sacrifice to keep our soul clean, our spiritual life would not be ready for the spiritual battle. That is to say, we would not have the necessary dispositions for the battle we have to face in the spiritual life, like a ship that does not have its cannon and other weapons clean would not be ready to face a battle.
Precisely for this reason it is important that Christians love daily mortifications, that we take them as a fundamental part of our life, and not as a necessary evil that we have to bear. And this is important to understand and keep in mind, not only when we begin to take our first steps in the spiritual life, but rather throughout our whole life: one cannot grow in the spiritual life without a voluntary acceptance of mortification.
When Christ said that one could not be His disciple if one did not take up his cross, he was referring to this. You cannot live a serious spiritual life, you cannot walk the path of holiness if you do not carry your daily crosses, if you do not willingly mortify yourself daily.
When we take up our cross simply because we have no other choice or option, instead of taking up our cross we are dragging our cross which is not what Jesus asked of us. Jesus did not drag His cross. To drag the cross means that if possible, I would throw it away, I would remove it from my life because I do not want it.
Therefore, to take up the cross implies a positive act of our will: to want it. I want it because God wants it, I want it because my holiness depends on this cross the acceptance of it, I want it because I want to imitate Jesus, who willingly took up His cross out of love for me.