The life story of St. John can be beautifully summed up in these few lines:
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
His life’s struggles and persecutions formed the basis for his sanctification.
St. John faced much poverty and suffering during his childhood. Having lost his father at a very young age, he was brought up by his mother, Catalina, who struggled to provide even the basic necessities of life for her three children. Furthermore, by the tender age of 14, John had to take up a job in a hospital to support his family and himself. Nonetheless, John’s mother was a devout catholic woman who taught John self-sacrificial love and encouraged him to follow Christian values. This phase of his life was considered as the first major climacteric in his journey towards seeking God.
Apart from being a theologian-priest and a mystic-poet, St. John spent a major part of his life as a reformer, which caused him to face imprisonment and many persecutions. It was in the darkness of his prison cell and in the midst of his loneliness that he found Christ and experienced the passion of our blessed Lord. These experiences aided in his purification process. It was in these confinements and desolations that he was blessed with the gift of poetry and prose writing. Thereafter, he wrote many outstanding books on the path of union with God and the rigorous discipline that this communion demands. Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, A Spiritual Canticle l and Living Flame of Love are just a few that have received worldwide recognition.
We live in an advanced technological era, wherein, each one is wrapped up in his/her own life and ambitions. However, our constant race to achieve all that this world offers has deprived us of the true happiness and joy that we were created to experience by the Lord Almighty. We have forgotten the factual meaning of BEING LOVED and TO LOVE. This has been the reason for the emptiness that we all experience at the spiritual level of our being. Unfortunately, we try to fill these voids by the fastest means available, for example, money, worldly assets, alcohol, sex; thus in turn defiling the divine nature that God has blessed us with.
The teachings of this saint have brought me to a realization that we are all created for a purpose. In order to live fruitful lives, we must be in union with our creator at all times, and this union with God can be accomplished only when we expose our true selves to His divine nature. Every time we face trials and persecutions in our lives, we should consider this time of darkness as a presenting opportunity to seek God, to embrace the will of God and truly believe that all things including persecutions and sufferings can result in goodness and life for our spiritual being. Only when we experience darkness, we truly appreciate the light that shines on us, the light of our savior. I feel that we can all learn from the example of this saint that the only means to fill this emptiness is by searching within ourselves.
“What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom – your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won’t find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you.” (St. John of the Cross)
According to St. John, human desires serve as obstacles that hinder the flow of the unfathomable graces, bestowed upon the human race by the Lord Almighty. He uniquely highlights the crucial role of mortification, discipline and the need to consciously direct the desires of our will towards God, if we wish to form a conscious relationship with Him.
What inspired me the most about his life story is that even after he endured exponential hardships and tribulations; it did not deter him from his path of union with God. In addition, during these hard times, he held on to his love, faith and hope in Christ and used them as weapons of victory to achieve this communion with our most holy God.
“We must dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.” (St. John of the Cross)