Saint John of the Cross – Readings


Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:1-10a; Ps 36; Luke 14:25-33

The Gospel reading is from Luke. We are told that large crowds were following Jesus. We might say that there were two kinds of people who were attracted by him. The first were those who were in genuine need – those who were sick in one way or another, those who were disabled (the blind, the lame), those whose lives were governed by forces they could not control, those who were ostracised (like lepers or people with bleeding problems), those who were poor, and those who were rejected as sinners and outcasts, such as tax collectors and prostitutes.
But there was another group who followed Jesus the way ‘groupies’ run after stars of film, TV or sports just to see them or be near them. Jesus was a ‘superstar’. He had a reputation for performing miraculous cures and people wanted to see them happening. These really had no interest in what Jesus was teaching. It is to these that Jesus seems to be speaking in today’s reading.
As the crowds gathered round him, he told them: “If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower.” For people among whom the family unit had first priority, these were harsh words and would certainly make them stop in their tracks. Jesus was being perfectly clear: anyone who wanted to be his disciple had to put Jesus before everything and everyone else. There could be no compromise.
“Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is not asking us to carry his cross – that was an experience unique to him. But he does ask us to carry the crosses that will come into our own lives, crosses which will be the result of our following him.
So he tells the crowds that, if they want to be really with him, they should be clear about what it entails. And then he gives two examples of what he means. If a developer wants to put up a large building, he needs to sit down and calculate if he can bring it to completion. If he fails half way through, he will become a laughing stock to his peers. Similarly, if a king is going to make war on another king, it would be wise to sit down and see if his forces are capable of winning. If not, it might be better to come to terms with his enemy and make a deal.
Jesus concludes by telling the people that no one can be truly a disciple of Jesus unless he or she is ready unconditionally to let go of everything he has. That is the bottom line and how many of us have taken it seriously?
One person who did take it seriously was John of the Cross. Few people will be asked to carry the kind of crosses he bore during life and most of them came from his own brothers in community. Such experience could have turned him – as it might other people – into a cynical and embittered person full of hate for others. On the contrary, it turned him into a person who saw the futility of hate, who was renowned for his being filled with the love of God, a love which eagerly shared with others. We might ask him today to help us be that kind of person.

In the First Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks about his preaching and about the nature of true wisdom.
When Paul came to Corinth he did not come gifted with any particular eloquence or wisdom of his own. What he did speak about seemed to be the very opposite – the message of Christ Jesus and him crucified, as a message of salvation for the whole world. He came in fear and trembling because who would want to respond to such an extraordinary message? If it was heard, it was not due to his eloquence but to the power of the Spirit working through him and them. “As a consequence, your faith rests not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
There is in the Gospel message a deep wisdom. True wisdom is an understanding of what life is about and that is what Jesus came to reveal to us. It is not, as Paul tells us, the “wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are headed for destruction”.
No, what Paul passes on is God’s wisdom, a mysterious, a hidden wisdom. A wisdom we could not find for ourselves but needed to have revealed to us. And he adapts a quotation from Isaiah (64:3): “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.” How could anyone have foreseen that God’s infinite love for us would be revealed by his Incarnate Son dying on a cross?
John of the Cross was someone who was steeped in this wisdom and he helped us to understand it by his wonderful poems and books as well as the example of his life. He knew how the pain of the cross could paradoxically be a source of peace and even joy. Let us ask him to help us have some of his wisdom.
 

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