NADA para TODO: Weekly Message for 05-28-2024

The path of nothing in order to win everything.

Dear Friends,

Recently I have been reading Saint John of the Cross’ Ascent of Mount Carmel. His classic spiritual works never fail to offer perennial nuggets of wisdom that speak to the universal human condition. The heart is insatiable. How do we feed it?

In this work he insists that we do all in our power to purify our attachments to anything and everything that inhibits or hinders our journey to union with God. He proposes a purposeful entry into the active nights of sense and spirit, a path of NADA para TODO. His program consists of emptying one’s self of sensory indulgences, images, memories, desires and affections that stifle the true flame of charity for God and neighbor. Far from dehumanizing one’s potential, this project of life strives to put all one’s strength into a single-minded purpose: a death to the old self so as to dispose one’s self to true union with the Lord.

The Ascent is an adventure into the night of faith. In chapter 31, John illustrates God’s pedagogy through Mary Magdalene’s experience on Easter Sunday. First, the Lord allowed her to witness the empty tomb, an invitation to believe without seeing. God’s mercy strengthens our faith when His felt presence eludes us. Second, the angels speak. Faith comes through hearing. God invites a deeper listening to the undercurrents of his divine providence. The angel’s words quicken her heart in hope, like a small light in the darkness. It encourages her to continue her search for the Lord, despite feeling that her foundations of security were ripped out from under her. When Mary finally recognizes the presence of the Lord, her heart is warmed, enkindling her love for him. But she is quickly sent, ordered to not cling to him. God invites us to an even greater faith, hope and love that denies one’s self the security even of supernatural gifts. He launches us into a mode of self-gift, a type of participation in his own kenosis.

As we approach June, the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us examine our own hearts, asking the Lord for the grace of single-mindedness and single-heartedness. “Cut the strings” that allow the heart to take flight into a new way of seeing, desiring and loving. From the profound experience of poverty of spirit is born reverence, wonder and gratitude. Far from possessing nothing (NADA), we receive all (TODO) we need. We now “possess God” in faith, hope and charity. The theological virtues become our predominant mode of being. And in the likeness of Christ, we become more fully human.

Wishing you a blessed month of the Sacred Heart,

Jennifer Ristine
Author of “Mary Magdalene, Insights from Ancient Magdala” and “Nine Days with Mary Magdalene

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