My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
On the eve of our commemoration of John of the Cross–our patron saint–I delivered a sermon in which I presented the congregation with facts about John of the Cross. I made the argument that one’s patron saint should inform one’s sense of who one is, and if that is true, then we should take the life and theology of John of the Cross seriously. I presented the congregation with elements of John of the Cross’ life, personality, and theology, and paused between each one, encouraging them to think about how we do or do not live each one out in our own lives and in the life of the congregation.
I did not work from a full-blown manuscript. Instead, all I had written down were facts about John of the Cross.
Afterwards, I received several requests to post that sermon. Some day, probably during our 175th anniversary celebration in 2018, I will deliver a full-blown sermon or teaching series on John of the Cross and ask us all to be thinking about who we are in relationship to our remarkable patron. But today I don’t have a full sermon manuscript to post. Instead, I am going to post the facts about John of the Cross as I delivered them on December 13, and ask you to reflect on these questions:
How might John of the Cross inform your life and your relationship to others and to Christ? How might John of the Cross inform the life of this congregation and our relationship to others and to Christ?
Notes on Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross)
- He had an early first-hand acquaintance with poverty and deprivation. He later faced misunderstandings and imprisonment. His final years were full of illness. All of this might have produced a bitter cynic. But instead, while the events of his life were often outwardly sad, they were inwardly transforming.
- His trials and tribulations led to a charity toward others and deep compassion for all who suffer.
- This came with a clear vision of the beauty of God’s creation and an intimacy with God.
- Regrading his experience of poverty and deprivation: he did not just seek people’s spiritual good, but also looked for their material and bodily good as well. He often gave people what they needed out of his own stores, but also begged for others from other people of faith.
- When people were sick, he did not allow the question of money to interfere with their care.
- He was quick to perceive sadness or depression in another and was eager to comfort the downcast, so he developed a gift for humor, and it is reported that people looked forward to having him around.
- While he understood the need to call others to account, he was intent on not discouraging anyone.
- He was a spiritual director. He wanted to free people from their moral and spiritual illnesses.
- Sinners came to him without fear.
- He was focused on communion with God in faith, hope, and love.
- His deepest concern was for those suffering in their spiritual life. He wrote about the afflictions of what he called the “dark night” in order to comfort those in the dark night, so that they might know that God is clearing away the debris of their lives and making room for the divine light.
- He had no sense that he was too good for any type of work. Although he was small in size, he relished manual labor. He quarried stone for construction of monasteries. For the nuns, he laid bricks and scrubbed floors.
- Overwhelmed by an awareness of God’s goodness, he was often heard to exclaim, “Oh, what a good God we have!”
- He was devout in prayer.
- His experience of God was always rooted in the life of the Church, nourished by the sacraments and the liturgy.
- He believed that faith and confidence in God’s care for us is the appropriate response to life’s worries and anxieties.
So, my friends, that is a taste of John of the Cross. What does it mean for us to be mystically connected to him? How does he inform our sense of self and our sense of ministry?