Homily for Feast of St John of the Cross (14 December)
Introductory rite: We say that in baptism we die with Christ that we may live new lives with him. The death of our old self must happen for us to put on Christ. John of the Cross teaches us discipleship 101, how to die to self and be one with God. For those times we have preferred to indulge ourselves we ask forgiveness for our sins. You came to call sinners…
Today's Gospel passage focusses on the total dedication necessary for followers of Jesus. No attachment to family or possessions can stand in the way of the total commitment demanded of the disciple. Acceptance of this call requires a readiness to accept ‘Crosses’ such persecution and suffering and a realistic assessment of the hardships and costs.
It is not that God doesn’t love us. Undoubtedly God does because he sent his only Son to carry his own Cross. The Cross teaches us that being loved is not only to receive from God but we are to grow in love by sharing that gift; by sharing in the life of God’s Son. We not only receive, but that we are dispossessed of what we have received. We are to respond to God’s Love by being given up for others, and to have our lives poured out for the many, just like Jesus. (Note that we hear these words at the consecration and are to unite ourselves with Jesus’ offering.)
John of the Cross understood that following Jesus meant being given up for others. He willingly submitted to being offered with Jesus so that his love would be pure and life-giving. He could say the words of St Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” He could say, “I only know Jesus as the crucified Christ.”
Perhaps one of his worst sufferings was being accused by his own order, imprisoned and tortured. They resented his trying to reform their community’s way of life. In that prison he wrote his most profound poetry, his Spiritual Canticle. Later, in a commentary that explained his poetry he wrote, “If we could only understand that it is impossible to attain the wisdom of God without entering into the thicket of manifold suffering, making this our consolation and desire! And how the soul which really longs for divine wisdom first longs for suffering, that it may enter more deeply into the thicket of the Cross!”
Later in life Jesus appeared to John to ask him what reward he wanted for such a faithful life. He asked that he may suffer for the sake of love.
Jesus revealed what it means to be loved by God – we are to be to be dispossessed of what we have received to share the gift of God’s Love with the world. John followed faithfully. For us who wish to follow Jesus what price are we willing to pay? Both the tower builder and the warring king in the Gospel must calculate the costs and study the risks before making a final decision. The disciple must know that following Jesus requires accepting Christ’s Cross and pouring out his or her life in imitation of Christ. There is no grey area, no sitting on the fence. It is war.
The message of Christmas is a very sweet one which we easily ‘drink’ like babies’ drink milk. As we reflect on how much we love the baby Jesus this Christmas let us ask the Lord that we may be more generous in our efforts to follow Him. Jesus always wants our heart completely for Himself. Your heart is on his Christmas list.