Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest
(Isaiah 48: 17-19; Matthew 11: 16-19)
St. John of the Cross lived in the turbulent sixteenth century. The Protestant Reformation split the Western Church in half. The decadence of the Renaissance popes was being corrected by the reforms of the Council of Trent. Reformers of major religious orders were calling their numbers back to their original ideals. John of the Cross played such a role in the Carmelites of Spain.
John believed that the Carmelites had long abandoned the semi-eremitical life of their foundation in the twelfth century. Along with others he founded a monastery of friars who would live a solitary life of contemplation and praise to God. In this endeavor he pairs well with John the Baptist whom Jesus extols in today’s gospel. Of course, John of the Cross also composed theological treatises exploring the mystical life.
Jesus presents John as the yang to his yin. John called for reform so that people could escape the wrath of God who was sending his Messiah to judge them. Jesus, the actual Messiah, urges reform so that the people could experience the tender love of God. This message does not oppose John’s complimented it. The people, as today’s reading testifies, found excuses to sidestep both figures.
Our society finds itself in the position of those people. We can hear voices urging reform both to avoid the turmoil of civil unrest and to experience the solace of social harmony. We await the return of Christ who will bring justice to the earth.