When we think of saints associated with Advent, we think of Mary, John the Baptist, and perhaps Joseph. But we may also want to start thinking of John of the Cross. At the heart of John’s spirituality was the “dark night of the soul,” an experience of spiritual suffering and distance from God. Through this experience, we can appreciate how the things around us cannot satisfy our desires, and that we truly need God. In a sense, this is the experience of Advent. We hear the great promises of Isaiah and the other prophets, our desires are awakened, and we know that they are unsatisfied. We come face to face with our neediness, and see in Jesus our relief.
The Gospel for St. John’s feast is a hard one, where Jesus speaks of “hating” family, and even our own lives. “Hate” is hyperbole, but Jesus is certainly asking us to love Him more than we do anything or anyone else. Whenever I’m on a long trip, by the end I just want to get where I’m going. No stops, no breaks, just to get there. Usually, by that point, I am tired, and anything that keeps me from getting to the goal is an annoyance. In a sense, this is the love that Jesus asks of us–a love that knows how much we need Him, and is unsatisfied with anything else. John of the Cross had a mystical experience of how needy he was, and how nothing besides Jesus would satisfy this need. We also have a chance today to recognize our own neediness, to see how Jesus satisfies that neediness, and so to be satisfied with nothing less than Jesus.