Saint John, when talking about love in The Ascent of Mt. Carmel says that there are two things a person must work on to love God more than anything. First, a person must dispose of oneself; second, the person must allow God to throw off anything in the person that is not of God.
Disposing of onself for the sake of God
Saint John of the Cross says this type of thing over and over about disposing of anything that is not God. We know from the Gospel that St. John the Baptist said that he must decrease and Christ must increase. St. John of the Cross is pointing us to the truth of St. John the Baptist’s words. We cannot expect to have God working in us when we are bringing our goals to the conversation that may be contrary to God’s goals. A person’s goals could align with God’s goals, but really the person is just adopting God’s goals; God’s goals are always best because God is Goodness Itself. Therefore, we must dispose of goals that are from us that do not align with God’s will for us.
Allowing God to throw off anything that is not God
Now, the verb in Spanish here means to throw off and also undress clothes; Saint John is playing on words to say that we cover and clothe ourselves with all things that are not God, like the rich young man in the Gospel who Jesus said to give up all his wealth to the poor and to follow Him. While we may follow the rules, we may not be in our hearts living the Gospel. Only God knows the intentions of our hearts, and what clothing that is not of Him that we have covered our hearts with like Adam and Eve after the fall. We must allow God to throw off all that is not Him; we must trust Him and not be ashamed to let Him heal us of all these attachments in our wardrobe of sin.
Doing both of these things together will show God we love Him more than anything
In the first case, disposing of ourselves puts us in a state of receptivity to something else. For example, if a person puts his or her hand on your shoulder, as long as the hand stays on your shoulder, you cannot have another hand on your shoulder. Once you remove the person’s hand from your shoulder, then another person can put his or her hand on your shoulder. This example exhibits a classic rule in philosophy: two contraries cannot coexist in the same subject.
In the above example, the hands are contraries; one hand belongs to one person and the other hand belongs to the other person. We must dispose of whatever we have allowed into ourselves that is not God in order to make room for God.
In the second case, as we are now working to dispose ourselves of ourselves, God can throw off from us anything that is not Him. When God tries to throw off things that are not of Him, sometimes we fight God; we put our self-love ahead of our love for God.
Saint John of the Cross’s statement on how to love God more than anything is crucial for us to grow in our spiritual lives. Furthermore, a cursory examination of our own lives will show all the instances where self-love triumphed over love of God and neighbor.
Saint John leaves us with the solution: we must act in disposing ourselves of ourselves and be receptive to God throwing off what is not Him. Our action is how we love God more than anything; our continual cooperation in this process will lead us closer to God than we ever could imagine.
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