14 December 2006


Memorial of St. John of the Cross
Mt 11:11-15

If the Americans have Uncle Sam, we, Filipinos, have Juan dela Cruz (“John of the Cross”). It is not the Juan dela Cruz whom we remember today. The Juan dela Cruz we remember today is a saint, a real, therefore, historical, person. Our Juan dela Cruz as Filipinos is a fiction but not necessarily false because we project to him our traits, strengths and weaknesses, and aspirations as a people.

However, because very often the crosses we bear as a nation prove to be real and heavy, St. John of the Cross may well be the patron saint of our Juan dela Cruz. St. John of the Cross, a Carmelite priest, who lived in the mid 1500’s, was endowed with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross, as the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass says. He taught us how to carry our crosses as he went through the different stages in spiritual growth, stages which he referred to as “dark nights”. He called them “dark nights” because those were stages in spiritual growth where one is left without maps or familiar landmarks. They are stages in spiritual growth where one allows God to take over.

For St. John of the Cross, “dark nights” are not identical with spiritual failure. They are, instead, moments when we are changed not by our loving God but by letting our selves be loved by God. They are stages when, in the words of St. John of the Cross himself, “The Lover is transformed by the Beloved.”

As the only Christian nation in the Far East, we are given the grace of bearing witness to Christ to the world by the many crosses we bear. Our country goes through many “dark nights”. And the bright morning seems to remain too far for us to get a glimpse of even today. Many already raised the question as to why would God give us so many crises – political, economic and even religious – if we are His special people in this part of the globe. While equally many are the answers proposed, the best is still the fact that God is changing us, purifying us, pruning us, and transforming us not by our loving Him but by allowing our selves be loved by Him.

Of course, this should not be an easy alibi for us not to work hard in alleviating our selves from the miseries we find our selves in. But it, however, throws all our national pain into a totally new situation. It is the situation of grace.

Our Juan dela Cruz will never be a saint even as it remains our national identity. But we can become like St. John of the Cross who said two important things that may bring some light into our dark nights: “If you search for love and find it not, put love and you will find love” and “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on love.”

Love alone can make Juan’s cross Juan’s grace.


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