Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Most Fitting Convergence: Memorial of St. John of the Cross and Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Many times, I choose not to use the optional readings given for the memorials of saints, mainly because I want my parishioners to hear the semi-continuous reading of a particular book of the Sacred Scripture. Sometimes, it works out that there is a convergence between the readings and the saint, and today, the memorial of St. John of the Cross is one of those examples. Here is the Gospel selection given for today, Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent. I am taking this from the British Missal that sits on my desk:
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people,
'What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first,
"My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today." He said, 'I will not go,'
but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said
the same thing to the second who answered, "Certainly, sir," but did not
go. Which of the two did the father's will?' 'The first,' they said.
Jesus said to them, 'I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are
making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to
you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the
tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to
think better of it and believe in him.
Can you guess what thought immediately crossed my mind when I heard this? I immediately thought of the role of reform in the Carmelite order. In some way, John and Teresa are really taking the role of the first son to heart. Even though they joined the Order, they recognized that the work wasn't done and there were greater heights and depths to reach for.
In my homily at Mass this morning, I quoted from the Spiritual Canticle of St. John, as it is found in the breviary. It reads:
Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite
impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first
entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there
its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses
first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross. Saint Paul
therefore urges the Ephesians 'not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations,'
but to be 'rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the
saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth -- to know what
is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the
fullness of God.' The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom
is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys
that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to
pass through it.
The Passion of Christ doesn't begin in the Garden; it begins in the cradle. In this Adventide, as we await the coming of the Lord, let us hunger for the cross that Christ gives us, so that we may know all that He wishes to communicate.

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