Bishop Reflects on Saint John of the Cross

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of Saint John of the Cross, who endured great sufferings in his lifetime to help reform the Carmelite Order of which he was a member. He was also a mystic who wrote a series of texts that speak of the need for divine intimacy in our lives- an intimacy that can only be realized when we set aside all other “goods” in our life and seek the “One Good” who is God Himself. In fact, when I have quoted passages from the book Divine Intimacy, written by Father Gabriel, much of what he explores is based on the spirituality of Saint John of the Cross.

Perhaps the most famous citation in all of the writings of Saint John is also the most provocative. You may have heard some variation of it in various homilies and talks over the years. Saint John once taught: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” At first glance , it may seem strange that he makes no mention of orthodox faith, faithful attendance at Mass or even observance of the commandments as the main criteria for judgment. However, all these righteous and necessary acts must flow from a life that has encountered, embraced and lived love fully in every circumstance that we find ourselves. For if they do not, they will not give honor and glory to our God, who is Love Himself. Sadly, we encounter many people who seemingly are doing all the right things, even working for the “reform” of the Church, but act without love. Such people may seem righteous but their efforts will bear little lasting fruit.

As we contemplate the Second Coming of the Lord, who will return to judge the living and the dead, let us contemplate the words of Saint John of the Cross. Let us reject all division, polarization, anger and contempt that is found both in the world and in our Church. Let us keep our eyes fixed on the Cross, where Love triumphed over all sin and evil.

Let us seek to love our neighbor as the Lord loves us and leave everything else behind.

Bp Frank