Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Saint John of the Cross & Advent 9

A Painting from Toledo. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
A Painting from Toledo. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

The Feast of Saint John of the Cross

The battle for spiritual awareness is in the mind. There is always a flow of thinking; automatic thoughts happening and taking place in our minds. These thoughts – inner monologues and conversations, automatic thoughts – are pathologies. Often times, your mind would be thinking about something totally neutral and mundane, about something that needs to be taken care of, something you’re responsible for.

But your thoughts can go from something normal to something immoral, without your consciously choosing that. Your mind can easily go from here to there, and could be way over here in territory that you know you’re not supposed to be in, and that you are trespassing in. Our thoughts fly automatically, but once you become aware of a trespassing in your thoughts, you have a responsibility to do something with it.

What we do with our thoughts determines whether they become a moral issue and a matter of sin. You may have been working over a thought for more than twenty seconds before you were even conscious of what was taking place.

Once we become conscious, then we have a choice and a responsibility to act in the thought life with our will and in the depths of our beings. We must make a choice interiorly. If we allow the thought to continue, then it definitely infringes in the realm of responsibility and sin.

At the moment an automatic thought arrives that is definitely not of God, we have the choice to reject it in the name of Jesus by the power of His Holy Name and His Blood to cleanse our mind of the effects and residue, and to call on the Holy Spirit to renew our mind according to God’s will. In the hierarchy of value, awareness is key. Only when we become aware are we responsible for what happens in the battle of the mind.

Once I become aware, then I can begin to understand. Where does this come from and where is it going? Understanding is the education of desire. In Romans 6 and 7 Saint Paul talks about the inner conflict, the war within between the natural man, the fallen nature and the Spirit of God. He explains that the law of the flesh is opposed and is at war with the law of the Spirit; he sees and he experiences that battle within his own human condition. He says, ‘But thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has set me free from myself in these areas.’

Even though the flesh may desire something for self-gratification, if it does not give glory to God, that desire must be educated by our understanding of what is more valuable. We must understand what is valuable, where our desires are coming from and where those desires are going. Understanding leads to the education of desire.

After proper understanding comes the third framework of discernment which is action. I’ve discipline my desire, and then I choose. Saint John of the Cross is prophetic because he says that this is so important. He says, ‘Don’t think that if you’re not sinning mortally that that’s good enough.’ He goes deeper in the purification of the spirit into our venial sins and the details of seeking perfection, not only in the senses.

Even in the areas of the spirit, there are certain desires that might seem to be wholesome that need to be mortified for the sake of a greater love, for the sake of the love becoming purer and more immaculate in your communion with God. The beautiful aspect of Saint John’s prophetic teaching and charism, is that in every way possible, he gets this message across. In The Ascent of Mount Carmel, he says aspirations like, “Who can make this teaching acceptable?” Despite how spiritual people might think they are, they may inevitably overlook the important teaching and necessity to seek the greater, more pure love.

Saint John of the Cross challenges us to the depths of disciplining our desires in order that we can be transformed in fire. He calls us to that pristine, lucid openness to God’s grace such that nothing can get in God’s way; nothing must get in our way from more fully allowing ourselves be loved, more than ever before. Each of us, everyone of us have to be hungry for conversion, thirst for conversion.

We must recognize that we are sinners in the world, and that we are often blind to the knowledge of your own sins and that we are in desperate need of Christ’s salvation. Thirst for conversion. Hence, we’ll be able to unite our spirit with that of Saint John of the Cross.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end.

 Saint 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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