Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Saint John of the Cross & Advent 4

Segovia. 'Cristo Vacente' by Gregorio Fernandez. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
Segovia. ‘Cristo Vacente’ by Gregorio Fernandez. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

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Our affliction is a magnet for God’s affection. There’s a tremendous truth behind that. In scripture, we often hear that God is close to the broken-hearted; that is a regular theme in the old covenant. Jesus said, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me for you, to heal the broken-hearted and to set the captives free.’  In John 20: 19-22, Jesus appears to the disciples and they are despondent in the upper room, where they have been hiding away. They were totally disillusioned and rightly so. Even though they heard the words from Jesus prophesying His death, His words just didn’t register. The raw, ugly, messy, and humiliating cross was so not according to their expectations. Even though they were given foresight, they forgot what they were told, and they became despondent.

That’s how we are. We know about the dark night, we know about the devotion to Christ on the cross, but when something really hard strikes us, more often than not, it affects us unless God sustains us by His grace.

In the disciples’ moment of despondency, Jesus came through the closed door. He didn’t have an invitation, He didn’t knock first, but He just came right through. He appears to them, and he doesn’t scold them the way he would speak to the Pharisees, ‘You fools!’ or ‘I told you so many times!’ Even Saint Paul in Galatians Chapter 1 says, ‘How could you be so stupid!’ Jesus could have said, ‘What were you thinking! What was going through your mind!’

Instead of scolding them, He did the total opposite. He imparts peace in a supernatural way. The most magnificent part of all, was that immediately after speaking the words, ‘Peace be with you,’ he gave forth His breath and the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in their deprivation. From that moment, Jesus met them where they were. Their faith had been so affected, and seemingly shipwrecked. Some of them were considering about going back to their old life. They were so disillusioned that they didn’t know what to do and where to go. Jesus came to them in their woundedness, and after imparting the words of peace and the spirit to them, He shows them His wounds.

As we know, Jesus suffered tremendous wounding on His body, but he only chose five to particularly keep in His glorified body. He deliberately chose to keep the marks of the nails and the spear in His hands, His feet, and His side. He wanted those as a reminder to us of how much we are worth to Him, as the battle scars, the war wounds of what He endured for our sakes. By His wounds we would be healed.

Hence, whenever our Blessed Lord appeared in private revelations to particular friends closest to His Heart – Holy Mother Saint Teresa, Saint Margaret Mary, Saint Faustina, Saint Gertrude – He would appear in His glorified body and the greatest light that emanated from Him came from His wounds. His wounds became the fountain of His blessings. His wounds are the wellspring of all the ways in which He wants us to share in His divine love.

So too with ourselves. Though we would want to cover and hide our wounds, those very things that we wish we didn’t have, or we see as inconvenient, or we just dismiss as getting in the way of growing in holiness, are exactly the means by which we will grow in holiness. Rather than being a stumbling block, they are actually a building block; those wounds are one of the most important building blocks we will have.

In our wounds we can encounter God in the core of our being. In that weakness, we are most united to the truth of our humanity, the truth of our poverty, our nothingness, our need for the Lord, our inability to do anything on our own. In that rock bottom, that ground zero, that nakedness, we can be consumed by the love of God. From that nothingness can come the glorious transformation of our life in His strength (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. St. John of the Cross, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Carmelite Nuns Retreat, 12/2013)  “Transforming Union: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross”- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Click here for a different daily Novena Prayer.

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

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