Love can be experienced as a painful reality. For St John of the
Cross, God's touch in our lives, through the Holy Spirit, can cause
a "love wound" that only God can heal. In his teaching, he likens
the wound caused by God's love to the wounds created by the surgeon
when operating on a person to remove something bad and make the
person healthy again.
Those wounds and scars are unavoidable and necessary. They speak
of the healing and new life experienced by the previously sick
person. So it is with the wound of love that occurs when God, as a
surgeon, operates in our soul. In that sense, the wound is
beautiful and life-giving.
In one of his commentaries, John wrote:
O happy wound, wrought by one who
knows only how to heal! O fortunate and most blessed wound; you
were made only for the delight and gratification of the soul! . . .
O then, delightful wound, so much more sublimely delightful the
more the cautery touched the intimate centre of the soul, burning
all that was burnable, in order to give delight!
It is unpopular nowadays to talk about a God whose love can
cause us pain in our lives. We want to experience the love without
having to put up with the pain. Yet, for St John, the way of love
walked by Jesus was the way of the cross.
Allowing God to declutter within us all that is not life-giving,
"burning all that is burnable", can be a painful experience, but it
is essential if we seek to grow in our spiritual life. It is not
all "doom and gloom", John says, for the same wound that causes the
pain also brings the freedom, the healing, and the joy that our
soul longs for.
It is also out of that experience of loving and being loved that
St John affirms the centrality of love in a person's faith journey.
Love, John believes, turns spiritual formation into spiritual
transformation. Love alone can change us into the person that God
created us to be.
Finally, love is the rule by which we will be "judged" at the
end of our journey on this earth. John prefers to think of it as a
loving examination. "When evening comes, you will be examined in
love," he wrote.
In the evening of our life, when we come face to face with our
Creator, God will not be interested in how many church services or
Bible studies we have attended, or how successful or unsuccessful
we were in our business. The Beloved will be interested in how much
we loved, how selfless our love was, and how many people we touched
with that love. That will be the final test, and that should be our
ultimate motivation for life and for living.
For prayer and reflection
Some of the greatest women and men of God have lived this
love-based spirituality, holding a newspaper in one hand and a
Bible in the other (as Karl Barth put it).
Read the news in a paper or online, prayerfully, trying to
identify the places where there is no love in the world or your
community. Pray for love to fill those loveless situations, and for
God to show you ways in which you can practically inject love into
at least one of those places.
Then, allow God's living flame of love to rekindle your love for
God and others by reading afresh the hymn of love in 1 Corinthians
13. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to live the sort of love
that Paul describes in this passage.
This is the last of four edited extracts from
Transformed by the Beloved: A guide to spiritual formation with St
John of the Cross by Daniel Muñoz (BRF, £6.99 (CT Bookshop