July 30, 2012

Reduced to Nothing - A Sign of Hope

Against the tendency to think that we possess knowledge of Christ in our successes and achievements, St. John of the Cross encourages those who are overwhelmed with suffering and sorrow to see their trials as the pathway to deeper union with the Lord:

When they are reduced to nothing, the highest degree of humility, the spiritual union between their souls and God will be an accomplished fact.   This union is the most noble and sublime state attainable in this life.  The journey, then, does not consist in consolations, delights, and spiritual feelings, but in the living death of the cross---sensory and spiritual, exterior and interior.  (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, book 2, chapter 7, 11)

What a beautiful application this has for those who at this moment are struggling to understand their lives in the face of insurmountable difficulty!  All kinds of physical, psychological, and spiritual afflictions can become part of the journey, the threshold to union with God in love.   How?  By clinging to the Lord in faith and believing in the mystery of his love reveals on the Cross, the Lord mysteriously communicates His Presence, transforms them and unites them to Himself.  They become, by God's grace, signs of His power to the world, signs of hope.

St. John of the Cross also admonishes those of us who call ourselves friends of Christ but do not know this suffering.  Those who are pierced by the love of Christ are never daunted by bitter trials and never worry about sacrifices that might need to be made.  They see, instead, in each trial another opportunity to show their love and gratitude for the great gift they have been given by God's love.  We who have avoided suffering a little to carefully could learn from their valor.