Saint John of the Cross, pastor and doctor of the Church
(Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13; Matthew 21:28-32)
The readings today speak of reform, a theme more appropriate to Lent than Advent. There is still time, the Church seems to be warning us, to turn our lives around before the Lord comes in judgment. Zephaniah, the prophet, describes how corrupt the people became with the image of pollution, which strikes a deep chord with our concern over the environment. Zephaniah continues with an account of a reformed people so innocent that even what we call a white lie makes them reel in reproach.
The gospel shows reform in motion. Jesus tells of two sons of whom the first son changes heart after rejecting his father’s command. The truly fortunate among us resemble this sibling when after spending youth in pursuit of pleasure, power, and prestige, wake up to the call to a life of gratitude and reciprocal service.
St. John of the Cross lived in the midst of reform. The sixteenth century, when John was born and died, was Spain’s glory moment on the world stage. It is easy to imagine corruption in religious orders once dedicated to poverty but re-conformed with the wealth of the age. By word and example John called his Carmelite brothers back to evangelical simplicity and as a result suffered the reaction of his detractors. Nevertheless, he continued preaching his message. Because of this resolve and also because of his peerless spiritual insights, John is recognized as one of the most illustrious Carmelites in history.