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Tuesday, Second Week of Advent

December 7, 2004

Blessed St. Ambrose’ Day! (look for his story in the “saints of Advent” category)

Readings:
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 96:1-3, 10-13 “Our Lord Comes in strength”
+ Matthew 18:12-14

“I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost: seek thy servant, because I have not forgotten your commands” (Psalm 119:176).

Isaiah brings yet another message of encouragement. God’s people have gone astray and are suffering the miseries of being spiritually lost, but the Good Shepherd is on His way. He will seek them out, protect and nourish them, and tenderly lead them home. Isaiah urges the people to prepare the way for this rescuing Lord, to smooth and straighten His path in honor of His greatness and to make it easier for Him to arrive more quickly. Jesus picks up the same theme, explaining that He is the Good Shepherd who delights in rescuing His people. If even one soul is lost, He will drop everything and hurry to find it, rejoicing more in the one He’s found than in the ninety-nine who never wandered away.

That has multiple applications. First, none of us have any reason to despair of God’s forgiveness. The only way we can be deprived of His mercy is if we refuse it in this life (after death it’s too late). God is eager to give bring us safely to Heaven and it’s no part of His plan that even one of His little ones should perish. On the other hand, neither may we presume. We do have a role to play that God will not take from us. We are called to prepare the way, to fill in the valleys, level the mountains and make straight the crooked paths, not only to make it easier for Him to rescue us, but also so that we don’t immediately lose our way again. Another way to put it is that we must make a conscious decision to reject not only past sins, but future sins as well. We need to examine our lives to see what leads us into sin, and to make plans to minimize the danger (avoid near occasions of sin). If we leave ourselves vulnerable to sin, how can God take us seriously when we say we want to go to Heaven?

We also need to realize that God is as eager to forgive our enemies as He is to forgive us! If we are to have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), we need to prepare the way for Him to rescue them too, to smooth and straighten His path in their lives by the way we treat them and by the holiness of our lives. Woe to us if we put a stumbling block in the way of God’s beloved, or cause them to sin! But we will be blessed for the prayers, sacrifices and kindnesses we offer to draw them closer to Him.

May the Holy Spirit point out to us the mountains that need to be leveled, the valleys that need to be filled in and the crooked ways that need to be straightened so that all will be in readiness for the arrival of the King of Kings!

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