“Love until it hurts. Real love is always painful and it hurts: then it is real and pure” (St. Mother Teresa). Have you ever looked at a crucifix…really looked at it? That is loving until it hurts. Jesus gave everything…everything…for you and me.
Moms and Dads, you know what it means to love until it hurts. You sacrifice for your children to have a good life, you spend so much time teaching your children, and helping them to be mature, faith-filled adults. You watch your children make mistakes and like a good parent you correct them…you are proud of them when they succeed, you support them, even if they fail…why? Why do you do all this for your children? Because you love.
Spiritual Fathers out there, priests, bishops, you know what it means to love until it hurts. You bring all of your spiritual children to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Like a good Father, you help feed our souls with the truths about God and ourselves. You have been consecrated to offer the Mass for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. You have been consecrated to offer the Sacraments that bring healing and reconciliation and are able to extend God’s blessing on your spiritual children. Spiritual Fathers…you give so much of yourselves, just as Jesus gave everything for His Bride the Church. Why? Because you love.
Spiritual Mothers out there, consecrated women, and single women you know what it means to love until it hurts. You who are consecrated offer the gift of yourselves laying down your life out of love for God and the Church. You who are single, you give yourselves with a spirit of modesty and purity ready to serve the Lord in whatever way He calls you. Women of God, you see Jesus in the eyes of the people you serve. You bring your spiritual children to the chapel and offer them at Holy Mass. You offer sacrifices and prayers so that souls may find Christ…you rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Why? Because you love.
No matter what vocation we have been called to, we come to know something about “real love.” When we love, it costs something: it is a self-gift. We can experience this in day-to-day relationships as well. Relationships are constantly changing: people move away, a loss of a loved one, and this produces pain in our hearts. But the reason why it is painful, is because the love that you have for that person is real and true. When our relationships change, it is a reminder that the people we love do not belong to us…they belong to the Lord.
In my experience, I have found that when relationships change that makes room for love to grow deeper and stronger. I will give you an example. In Religious Life, the relationship that we have with our families changes, since we join a community and become a Spouse of Christ. We see our families a few times a year…naturally we love seeing our families. I have found that the times I do get together with my family are precious times and we take advantage of the moments that we are able to spend together.
Even though relationships will change due to circumstances, choices, events (moving away or death) that does not mean that we stop loving. In fact, these circumstances can help us to have a deeper love, because we learn to see who that person is in the eyes of God. Sometimes we do not realize how much we really care about someone until we feel the absence of their presence among us. But really they are not far away…their memory lives in you…they have become a part of you, they are closer than you think…because you love them.
As we enter our discussion on the dark night of the spirit, we realize that God is allowing the soul to be purified in order to have perfect union and likeness with Him. We experience many things at this stage that on a natural level are difficult and painful, yet on a supernatural level are so important and beneficial for us. The dark night of the spirit “feels” like we have been abandoned by God, however in reality God is very very close to us. We experience pure and dark contemplation. We can experience affliction in the soul from feeling abandoned by God. We can feel rejected from friends and find no consolation in spiritual direction. We can experience humiliation in our soul because we realize our poverty and misery as sinful creatures. We experience an inability to pray and lift up our spirits to God.
Some of you might be thinking…what kind of a relationship is that? It sounds like there is no joy or inner peace…that sounds like misery!” However, many of the saints including St. John of the Cross would argue that this is actually a grace-filled time!
What does St. John of the Cross say about this stage of the spiritual life?
St. John of the Cross says, “when the divine light of contemplation strikes a soul not yet entirely illumined, it causes spiritual darkness.” (Bk 2. Ch.5. par.3) He gives two reasons why the divine light illuminating the soul gives rise to a dark night: “First because the height of divine wisdom which exceed the capacity of the soul. Second because of the soul’s baseness and impurity; and on this account it is painful, afflictive, and also dark for the soul.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk 2. Ch. 5. par. 2)
Today we will discuss how the soul during this time feels abandoned by God. St. John of the Cross clearly says, “Because the light of wisdom of this contemplation is very bright and pure, and the soul in which it shines is dark and impure, a person will be deeply afflicted receiving it in himself.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk 2. Ch. 5. par. 5). Let’s apply an example to demonstrate what St. John is saying. For all of you who are not morning people this example is for you! Imagine when you were young and were still getting up to go to school. You are in bed, all cozy and tight when suddenly mom walks in and turns on the light right in your face! It is painful!! Why is that painful? You know the light needs to go on in order for you to get up for school…why is it painful? Because you just spent 7 or 8 hours in a dark room! So it is with the soul. Our souls are affected by original sin…they suffer all kinds of temptations, imperfections and sins. So, God needs to shine His light on our impure souls. He must do this in order for us to be cleansed.
St. John of the Cross goes on to say, “When this pure light strikes in order to expel all impurity, a person feels so unclean and wretched that it seems God is against him and that he is against God.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk. 2. Ch. 5. Par. 5).
You might be thinking: “Why God?” St. John explains what God is doing in these moments: “For the hand of God does not press down or weigh upon the soul, but only touches it; and this mercifully for God’s aim is to grant it favors and not chastise it.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk 2. Ch. 5. Par 7.) It is like when your mom takes a splinter out of your finger. She says, “Honey this is just going to pinch a little.” And then almost in shock you scream out “AAAHHH.” But it only hurts for a time…that is the same with the dark night of the spirit, it is only painful for a time, but it is worth it in the end…!”