"The 'cross' we must take is laid upon all obsessive and partial desires, so that the broad reach of agape love can integrate for us a whole and eternal life with God and man. Jesus was not some harsh ascetic who practiced or imposed pain for its own sake. He did not choose death because it was good in itself, but 'for the joy set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame' (Hebrews 12:2, par).
"To take him as our master means that we trust his way is right and, as he himself did, always look to the larger good under God. Like him we keep on entrusting ourselves to the One who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23). This is 'losing our life and thereby saving it' in the manner Jesus taught.
"In Chapter 8 of The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, Francis gives his friend Leo a teaching about what 'perfect joy' is. They are trudging through the snow from Perugia to the home of their group at St. Mary of the Angeles. For their brotherhood to give a great example of holiness and edification in all lands would not be perfect joy, Francis says. Nor would a great ministry of healing and raising the dead. Nor would possession of all languages and all science, nor all understanding or prophecy of Scripture, and insight into the secrets of every soul. Nor would even the conversion of all unbelievers to faith in Christ!
"By this point brother Leo is amazed, and he begs Francis to teach him 'wherein is perfect joy.' The reply is that if, when they come to their quarters—dirty, wet, and exhausted from hunger—they are rejected, repeatedly rebuffed, and finally driven away by force, then 'if we accept such injustice, such cruelty, and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring,' and 'if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for Him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.'"
Renovation of the Heart, pages 68-69.