Today the Church presents us with two different senses of waiting for God. The first is one of confidence in God as we suffer through difficulty. The second is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God through the witness of John the Baptist leading up to Jesus. There is also a connection that can be made between the two with the help of the Church’s memorial for today, St. John of the Cross.
God has proven Himself to us as a loving Father who has conquered death. Jesus has conquered death – the tomb was empty – and so we have nothing to be afraid of. Not even death! In every other way, He tries to assure us that all our needs will be met and we will never be abandoned by God. The whole point of the spiritual life, of life in general really, is to trust this promise. It is easy to believe that we will be taken care of when we have everything we want readily available, but do we trust during times of difficulty? God lets us go through difficulties so that we can grow in trust.
St. John of the Cross is probably most well-known for his writing about the “Dark Night” in the spiritual life. These are periods of intense suffering that God invites us into so that we may progress further in our relationship with Him. The point is not to suffer, but to detach from our desires and to grow in trust of His goodness. We are called to have peace in the midst of this suffering, knowing in some deep interior way that God loves us and will always take care of us.
Jesus also says at the end of the Gospel today that John the Baptist, “is Elijah.” We call to mind the prophet who told of God’s authority in the midst of so many alternate ways of finding comfort. Elijah also discovered the voice of God speaking to him with “a still, small voice.” God was present in the quiet when all the noise died down.
As we approach Christmas, in this time of waiting and anticipation, let’s take God up on His invitation to trust Him more. When it seems like things are not going well, or it seems like He has disappeared and He is quiet in our lives, we can still believe with the assurance of confident and well-provided-for children that all will be well.
Dr. Greg Bottaro is the Director of the CatholicPsych Institute and teaches how to grow in trust of God at www.catholicmindfulness.com.