Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. John of the Cross & Advent 5

Ubeda, Museum of St. John of the Cross. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org
Ubeda, Museum of St. John of the Cross. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org

Faith is always first and foremost the force behind God’s ability to do great things in our lives. For every single person who encountered Him in the gospel – whether they were in need of healing of blindness, healing of withered hands, being paralyzed, being mute, having hemorrhages – whatever it was, faith was always the transformative factor that made the difference in their lives. One of the ways we will experience faith that will really test us is when we are face-to-face with our own poverty or brokenness, in whatever shape that might take. When God awakens us to be aware of those things, we have a significant decision. We are at a crossroads where we have to make a very important choice, a choice of faith. Am I going to believe more in my own weakness, or am I going to believe more in God’s love for me?

It’s so easy for us to believe more in our weakness than in God’s love for our lives. Why? Because I see my weakness everyday, and sometimes, when I’m confronted with this weakness, I’m unaware of God’s love for me. I begin to be deceived by what I see and think, ‘How can God possibly love me in this? How could God possibly love this brokenness?’

Yet Jesus is most radiant in the places from which He suffered most. So too, in glory in heaven, though it is beyond our ability to picture or imagine, what will be most radiant about us is the way God worked in our lives, especially through our weakness. It is our faith that allows Him to accomplish it, faith more in His love for me than in what I see in myself. Our human nature has the tendency to want to earn God’s love, or to want to perform and to do it, to want to take matters in our own hands, and by our own works, and by our own observances – which is all good. But what gets confused is when I put myself at the center of the drama and think that I am doing everything all by myself.

There comes a point when you cannot do it yourself! And God will break that self-centeredness so that ‘No human nature will boast before God’s presence,’ as Ephesians 2 says. You have not gained anything by your works but by the sheer gift of God’s grace. That’s one of the most absolute, primary realities of the God who has called us into a covenant relationship with Him. It is He who has chosen us, and it is He alone who can accomplish the great things that He has in store for us.

When the soul sees in itself, its abundance and greatness in the beauty of God, Saint John of the Cross says, ‘She is given the properties of the Beloved.’ It was so important to go off on that tangent about the wealth of our weaknesses. Otherwise, if we just read these beautiful passages from scripture and our saints about the glory of transforming union without a realistic picture of how to get there, then we’re just going in circles like the Israelites in the desert. We have to have a very real, concrete understanding. For us to allow God and His Word to be made flesh in us, our knowledge of self is essential and foundational in our spiritual lives.

The more we abide in communion with the love of Christ crucified, the more transformed in the Spirit of Our Lord we can become. When Saint John of the Cross speaks in language about the love of Christ crucified, it’s never a love of the cross in and of itself, but a love of Christ on the cross. There’s a big difference. Otherwise, mortification just becomes an end in itself because it’s an obligation, a demand, or what’s needed. There always has to be a relational dimension to our faith lives (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. 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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