Today we honour the memory of St. John of the Cross, who collaborated with St. Teresa of Avila in the reform of the Carmelites. St. John was a popular preacher and a prolific writer and many of his spiritual works continue to be read today and have never gone out of print. He had a special concern for those who suffered dryness or depression in their spiritual life and offered encouragement that God loved them and was leading them deeper into faith. St. John himself suffered from what he called The Dark Night of the Soul and said the best way to rediscover the light is to pray and worship even when we feel alone and spiritually dry.
At first glance the objection voiced by the Jewish leaders in today’s gospel seems reasonable enough. Our Lord had just chased from the temple those merchants engaged there quite lawfully in buying and selling, and was now himself teaching within the temple precincts. In the eyes of the Jewish leaders Our Lord was no more than a freelance itinerant preacher, and they demanded to know by what authority he was interfering in the lawful activities of the temple.
The Jewish leaders were the only people with whom Our Lord was abrupt and even harsh at times. Since they had closed their eyes to what he was doing, Our Lord knew they would also close their ears to anything he had to say. They of all people should have been able to read the meaning of the signs since they professed to be experts. They just couldn’t bring themselves to believe that God was at work in this ordinary, untutored carpenter from Nazareth.
The marvel of Christmas is that God comes to us in the flesh of a child. And he continues to come to us in each and every celebration of the Mass. Only faith can see through the veils of Our Lord’s humanity just as faith alone can see beyond the appearances of bread and wine.
And yet faith is not for the smug, or the sophisticated, or the self-reliant. Faith is for those who are willing to respond to the simplicity of God’s almighty power at work among us.