Monday, December 14, 2020

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church

John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila were a very potent force of prayer and reform in 16th century Spain, and they continue to be so for the 21st century world. Their profound influence will influence the world and church until Christ returns, maybe billions of years from now... maybe trillions. John and Teresa will be Saints for all seasons and all epics because of the depth of their wisdom.

They knew that life is largely lived in struggle and suffering of one form or another. Their teachings focused on how much God loves us through the reality of suffering and the power of this “love” reaches its zenith on the Cross. We do all sorts of things to avoid the reality of suffering, by insulating our lives in beautiful homes of comfort and space; we keep busy; we live in areas protected from violence and suffering; we have the means to “prettify” our lives, deepening the divide within our very hearts.

Teresa experienced much rejection from her own religious sisters and Community, even being banished. The presence of physical and psychological illnesses haunted her throughout her entire life. John was literally imprisoned in a closet for months on end by jealous fellow friars. Imprisoned!!!!! For months in a dark closet!!!!

Today’s Feast of St. John reminds us who follow Jesus that we must face the many dark nights of body and spirit. These experiences strip our egos of their endless desire to be satiated. These “nights” are not simply “feeling bad” or undergoing depression. They are darknesses that strip us of EVERYTHING we are attached to: possessions , comforts, intellect, privileges , theological certainties, understandings of God and Church, our pride, anger, bitterness and independence.

Experiencing the dark night of the soul is a direct experience and participation in the Cross of Christ, an unavoidable reality in life. Those who can’t accept this will say things like, “you’re being too depressing,” “God wants me feeling happy,” and on and on and on. John and Teresa teach the beauty and power of suffering rooted in the Cross. Only by accepting and living through these dark nights will we enter the Kingdom of Paradise, where the darkness gives way to the Light that never ends. God lets us run away from this truth all we want, but we must reckon with it, sooner or later.

Fr. Frank