December 5, 2015

December 5, 2015


In my mind, one of the greatest inventions ever is cruise control.  My last car didn’t have cruise control, the one that made all of those six-hour drives to and from Saint Meinrad Seminary.  I love being able to set a speed and not have to worry if I’m accidentally going to go too fast or too slow.  Call me lazy, but I even use it pretty much every time I take Route 2 between Huron and Sandusky.  I just love me my cruise control.


Of course, there are times when I’m forced to turn it off.  Some of those times are understandable, like in a construction zone.  Other times are more vexing, like getting stuck behind someone who has a different interpretation of the socially acceptable variance of actual speed vs. the posted speed limit; or worse yet, someone who drives at inconsistent speeds.  It’s also pretty much impossible to use cruise control when it’s too hilly.  You don’t have to be in the Rockies.  I’ve found even driving through parts of Seneca County can be too much for cruise control to handle.  Many folks lament our “boring” flat geography in this part of the world, but as someone who makes frequent use of cruise control it’s perfectly fine by me.


In two of our Scripture passages today, we hear prophecies of God making mountains and hills low and filling in gorges and valleys in order to make a straight and level path.  Perfect for cruise control!  I can’t be the only one who wishes that the path of life was more smooth and unencumbered.  Of course, we know that life is not like that.  So what are we to make of these readings today?  I think we must remember that we are to “prepare the way of the Lord.”  It’s an interior journey, a spiritual pilgrimage.  With all of the ups and downs and obstacles of life that might make “cruise control” impossible, this Advent season calls us in a special way to allow God to more easily come into our lives and be part of our lives.  Jesus said, “I am the way (and the truth and the life).”  The Lord Himself is the straight path, and He invites us to join Him in the way of His life, death and resurrection.  We need this—we need Him—because of all the obstacles and winding roads and rough ways of life.


Before Jesus opened up the way for us, John the Baptist prepared the way for Him as “a voice of one crying out in the desert,” proclaiming salvation through a new way of living.  The call to conversion and preparing ourselves more and more for Christ remains today.  Yet we’re not left to do it on our own; God’s grace is there to make it happen.  St. Paul says, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”   But in order for this to happen, we must be aware of, and open to, the transforming power of God that can knock down the mountains of sin and fill in the valleys of weakness and bring us back from our exile and wandering into the gathering of His children.


God helps us and molds us as we travel on our path in a lot of different ways, but He does this in a special way through His gift of the sacraments.  In baptism are washed clean of sin, putting on Christ and being claimed by God as one of His own.  But then sometimes we venture down the wrong path, one that doesn’t truly lead us to life we were made for.  And so, looking with love and mercy on contrite hearts, the Lord leads us back to Himself through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  As Pope Francis often states, while we get tired of reaching out to Him and asking for mercy and forgiveness, God never tires of reaching out to us, of showing mercy, and forgiving.  In introducing the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the pope says, “Mercy is greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive” [MV 3].  This Year of Mercy begins on Tuesday with the great celebration of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM, a holy day of obligation.  Apart from Mass times, I will be available for confessions on the hour from 8am-8pm for a Day of Mercy.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation will also be available the following Tuesday (December 15) starting at 6:30 as part of our Presence for Christmas event.  “Let every heart prepare Him room.”


And, of course, here in the Eucharist, we are nourished and strengthened for the journey by Christ’s very presence with us and among us.  Through all of the sacraments, and through all of our prayers and sacrifices and good works, the path is straightened to God and to one another.  “For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.”  And so through the goodness of God/ through the love of God in Christ, we are led through ups and downs and winding roads to the promise of a new and fuller life.