Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church
Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 And 6
The readings for the day can be found here.
Throughout the season of Advent, our readings and prayers invite us to meditate on the coming of Christ not only at Christmas, but at the end of time. The images in scripture are provocative and challenge us to “prepare the way” for Christ in our own lives. As I pondered on how today’s Gospel asks us to prepare our hearts, Jesus’ words painted a picture of division and misunderstanding that is all too familiar in our the church today.
John the Baptist and Jesus both had a keen awareness of God’s different plans for their lives. John was a prophet, called into the desert and fasted on wild honey and locusts. Jesus came to eat and drink with people, to be with humanity and share in our lives. Despite the ways in which they followed God, both of them were criticized for their lifestyles: John, “possessed by a demon” and Jesus, “a glutton and a drunkard”.
Too often the church has become polarized: people are labeled by their fellow Christians as “too liberal” or “too traditional”, “too focused on liturgy and personal piety that they ignore the poor” or “too focused on serving the poor that they ignore the bishops”. What good does this do to “prepare the way” and build up the Kingdom of God? Where is the hope for our future?
The first reading and the psalm give us insight into the source of our hope: turning to God leads us to truth and life. Following the commandments of God is an invitation to know and love God. When we allow our hearts to be open to God’s work in our lives, we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, to Wisdom.
God longs for relationship with us, not only to be close to us but to become one with us. It is through the gift of the Incarnation that we can know for what and for whom we are created. In his poetry, Saint John of the Cross reflects on the incarnation:
“For he would make himself
wholly like them,
and he would come to them
and dwell with them;
and God would be man
and man would be God
and he would walk with them
and eat and drink with them;
and he himself would be
with them continually
until the consummation
of this world…” (The Romances, part 4)
Even in the parts of our lives that seem mundane, in our eating and drinking, God is wholly with us. The gift of the Incarnation is not only that we are created to “be God”, as John of the Cross says, but our union with God calls us deeper into union with others, “to love your neighbor as yourself”. We do the work of Jesus together, each person in a unique way, as a community of believers and as the Body of Christ. Through our love of one another, we build up the Kingdom of God.
May the task of our love be to seek God’s wisdom and to walk, eat, and drink with the tax collectors and sinners, with the poor in body and spirit, with people who are different from us, and to love one another with the Incarnate love of God.
Jen Petruso (A&S 2010) is the Campus Minister in Griesedieck Hall.