Friday December 14, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint John of the Cross

Reading (Isaiah 43:1-3a, 4-5) Reading II ( Romans 8:14-18, 28-30)

Gospel (St. John 17:11-26)


Today the church celebrates the Feast of Saint John of the Cross. Saint John of the Cross lays out most clearly in the Church the way to Heaven, the direct way to be able to get to God. That is why, in the Gospel reading today, it talks about the prayer of Jesus, the High Priestly Prayer, praying that all would be one: that we would be one in Him, as He is one with the Father and the Father is one with Him, so that we, too, may also be one. But that oneness comes in living the life of Christ. And so, as Saint Paul told us in the second reading today, we need to share His suffering so as to share His glory.

Today, the Holy Father has asked that all Catholics would make this a day of penance. Even though it is a great solemnity, even for our Holy Father –one of his doctorates is in Saint John of the Cross and he follows the Carmelite life – nonetheless, following the Master of the Spiritual Life here, the Holy Father has asked all Catholics today to pray and to fast for world peace. Seeing the situation that is going on in the world, he has asked that all of us would be with him today as he has called for a meeting of all leaders of various religions and churches in Assisi. So we need to pray. The last time he did this, the Buddhists took full advantage of it and made a total mockery of it. And so, I think his reason for asking us to pray is not only for peace, but for the recognition of truth: that these people would come to understand the truth, that they would know that Jesus is the truth. That prayer, once again, is that all would be one, that there would be one flock and one shepherd. There is only one way that is going to happen and that is when we are all united in Jesus Christ. That is what we are being called to.

We have that promise of the Lord in the first reading that we heard from Isaiah: that [although] we might walk through fire and we might walk through water, we are not going to be burned and we are not going to be drowned; but the Lord simply says, "Fear not, for I am with you." The Lord has not abandoned His people; He is with us. As Saint Paul said, He has called us; He has chosen us for Himself; He has justified us. Now, He is giving us His grace because His prayer is that we would be with Him where He is so that we would always be able to see His glory.

The only way that we are going to be with Him where He is to share in His glory is to share first in His suffering in this life, to live that penance, to live the way of Christ, to walk the Way of the Cross – that is the way Saint John of the Cross points out to us. His doctrine is oftentimes called the Nada Doctrine, nada being the Spanish word that means "nothing". If you want to be able to get to God, the only way is the way of nothingness: hanging onto nothing – no attachments to anything, either of the world or of the spiritual life, but rather, being attached only to God Himself and walking the straight path, going up the sheer cliff of Mount Carmel: the way that leads most perfectly and most directly to God.


* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.