Few Desire the Cross

John of the Cross: crucifixion sketch

Saint John of the Cross, whose feast day it is today, is always intent on getting us forward in our spiritual life and letting Jesus, his Father, and his Spirit, fully transform us into the image of the Blessed Trinity. He sings the song of the Bride and the Bridegroom. He tells of how the the heavens and the earth are his, and the nations are his, and the just, and the sinners, and the angels, and the Mother of God, because they are Christ’s and Christ is all for him. He shows what the heights of love are and how much they can be realized here on earth. It’s all about God’s Love and making us one with that supernatural love.

But at the same time, John loves the Cross. He knows that Jesus is the One on the Cross. We are to be made one with Jesus, so that Cross is the path also. In the Spiritual Canticle (st. 36 and 37), John writes,

If only people would understand how impossible it is to reach God’s riches and wisdom except by passing through the thicket of toil and suffering! The soul must first put aside every comfort and desire of its own. A soul that truly years for divine wisdom begins by yearning to enter the thicket of the Cross.

And again:

For the gate to these riches of God’s wisdom is the Cross; many desire the consoling joy to which the Cross leads, but few desire the Cross itself.

And so me must desire the Cross – not, of course, in the sense that we might think the Cross an absolute good or suffering an absolute good; no, but rather as something good for us, transformative for us and (as a result) for the world. It is the Gate to God’s riches. It is the Door through which we pass to enter into God’s light, wisdom, strength, transfiguration, and indeed all his possessions.

Jesus, after all, “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited” (Phil 2:6), and so it ought to be with us, too. Few may desire the Cross. Yet all of us are called to It. This is part of the message of Saint John.


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