Ten years ago today my Dad died. My Mom has been lost in the darkness without him as a guiding light after their amazing 50 year journey together as husband and wife. She has been forced to make changes in her life. It has not been an easy transition for her or my sisters, me, and our families.
St. John of the Cross, born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, was a contemplative Discalced Carmalite priest, monk and doctor of the Church. He felt a call to reform the Carmalite order and received approval from the Papal Nuncio in Spain to do just that. The changes did not go over well with many of his fellow monks. They imprisoned John for eight and a half months, placing him in a tiny cell with no window. The only light he had to pray his breviary came from the hole in the wall to the room next door.
During this time St. John wrote “The Dark Night of the Soul”. Here is a contemporary paraphrase from Fr. Richard Conlin of the necessity of dark night in spiritual life.
“Until a soul is placed by God in the passive purgation of that dark night… it cannot purify itself completely from these imperfections nor from the others.… No matter how much an individual does through his own efforts, he cannot actively purify himself enough to be disposed in the least degree for the divine union of the perfection of love. God must take over and purge him in that fire that is dark for him.”
Jesus tells the parable of the son who went back and did the work he was supposed to do but first said no to his father. The son changed his mind. He did his work in the vineyard. He did what he was called to do by his father.
My father told his daughters to care for his wife and our mother. We wholeheartedly agreed to the task. My Mom however does not believe she needs any assistance at this stage in her life. She does not see a beloved mother who has become reclusive and remiss in necessary tasks and personal care. She pushes away inquiries or offers of help, as she is ‘just fine.’
Zephaniah reminds us to take refuge in the Lord. ‘You need not be ashamed of all your deeds…’ Correction or insight from another can point the way to enlightenment. Each person must acknowledge the correction and make a choice to do what is right in the eyes of God. Everyone has a dark time (or more) to work through, even chief priests, monks, moms, and especially me. We each must commit to do what the Father has called us to, our own individual specific tasks.
Father, help me through the darkness. Enlighten my mind to the tasks and changes that need to be made in my life to the hope found in Your love. Amen.
Feature Image Credit: M. Marlowe, https://unsplash.com/photos/My4whL2BBVg