It always amazes me how God works extra hard to bring good out of evil and injustice. It’s even more amazing how some people who are suffering some form of injustice allow God to take hold of the unjust situation and baptize it, as it were, so that it can produce godly fruit. Nowhere is this dynamic at work more dramatically than with the witness of St. John of the Cross.
John was instrumental in supporting and furthering the reforms that St. Teresa of Ávila sought for the Carmelite order—reforms that called the order back to its original rule of prayer, fasting, and community living. But as the reform grew, so too did the resistance among some powerful members of the order. These “unreformed” Carmelites saw John as rebellious and dangerous. So they kidnapped him and locked him away in a small dark cell. They beat him regularly and they ordered him to give up the reforms. But John didn’t give in. Nine months later, John miraculously escaped. He managed to unscrew the lock on his door, slip past the guard, and lower himself down from the window using a rope made from blankets tied together.
You can just imagine how such extreme physical and psychological abuse would irreparably damage most people. But in this time of severe trial, when everything was stripped away, John discovered what it is like to have nothing left but God. And the discovery filled him with consolation, hope, and even joy.
I can’t even imagine surviving in such miserable conditions. I would probably quit on God, get bitter, and end up completely miserable. But somehow, John survived and even thrived spiritually. Those dark nights in that miserable cell produced for the church a compassionate mystic, a complex poet, and a Doctor of the Church—in short, a saint who was transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Becoming Lovers of God. We can sum up John’s teachings and writings in one word: love. If John were alive today, he would call us all together and say: “Where love does not exist, take the first step. Give love away, and you will find love.”
In this issue of The Word Among Us, I want to ask you to read the articles as John would have you read them—carefully and meditatively. Give John’s teachings about transformation and surrender a chance to penetrate your mind. Contemplate what it means to be, as John says, divinized by the grace of God. Imagine how much God wants to be with you—in all circumstances, in the joy-filled lights of life and in the dark nights of life.
Ponder how God can use both the bright days and dark nights of life to teach us how to love more clearly, more deeply, and more abundantly. No matter who we are or where we come from, our heavenly Father has the power—and the deep desire—to transform us into his image. He can shape us all so that we can love him and his creation as passionately as he loves us. May God bless you.