More Wisdom from St. John of the Cross
This short excerpt from his letters provides us with a glimpse into heaven.
St. John of the Cross
[To Madre Ana de San Alberto, prioress of Caravaca7
...since you say nothing to me, I tell you not to be foolish and not to walk with fears that intimidate your soul. Return to God what he has given you and gives you each day. It seems you want to measure God by the measure of your own capacity, but it will not be so. Prepare yourself, for God desires to grant you a great favor.
There are two things I love about this letter--it's straightforward simplicity and its firm direction. "Return to God what he has given you and gives you each day." That is, don't store it up and plan to return it at some other time. Don't hoard the treasures God showers on you. Every day as you receive, give out. As you are blessed, bless those around you. As God graces you, let the graces flow through you and out to grace the entire world. In a small sense, I suppose, we are all distributors of God's grace, we all act in miniature as the Blessed Mother. People who are ignorant of Christ can be blessed and "graced" by us. The starving, the thirsty, the poor, the downtrodden, even the merely sad or grieving can be lifted up by the spirit of Christ within us and graced by the same Holy Spirit--if we choose to allow it. Mother Teresa was a prime example of someone whose very presence lifted up God's people, because she gave back to Him, in the persons of all those around her, all that she received in a day.
The second wonderful moment in this brief letter is, "It seems you want to measure God by the measure of your own capacity," this is powerful beyond words, and true for every one of us. We, most unconsciously, put limits on what God can accomplish. We are not big enough, so God cannot do what is needed. We are so inelastic, so inflexible, so rigidly set, that we restrict the channels of grace through which God may work. If you recall Jesus could do no miracles in His own home town, "A prophet is without honor in his own country." This is not because He could not work miracles, but the stubborn unbelief and inflexibility of the inhabitants restricted God's action. He will not force us to accept any of His gifts. He may plead, cajole, and offer, but He will not force. So, if we measure God by the narrow margins of our own human hearts, we are casting out the wonderful possibilities inherent in His grace, because God came not to fit into the narrow boundaries of the heart, but to expand our hearts into His own. For that we need to accept the radical necessity for a fundamental change in our outlooks.
And we are told, "Prepare yourself for God desires to grant you a great favor." What greater favor could there be than to replace our stony hearts with hearts of flesh (to quote Ezekiel, I think)? What greater favor than to take away our human limitations to love and replace them with His own love? In so doing, He removes our self-involvement, our self-centeredness, our fear. We must cooperate in this work, we must prepare ourselves. We do so through the sacraments, through prayer, and through actions in the world that let God speak to others. We do so in putting ourselves aside and "putting on Christ." We do so whenever we break out of ourselves enough to breathe the air of heaven and when we use that to change the world in which we live, be it ever so slightly. When we smile at someone who has grown accustomed to our scowl, when we wave at someone to thank them as we drive our cars, when we share a cup of coffee, or listen to someone who desperately needs an ear. All of these things, small though they seem, prepare the way of the Lord.