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Wednesday, Second Week of Advent

December 7, 2005

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

Isaiah 40:25-31
Psalm 103: 1-4, 8, 10 “O bless the Lord, my soul”
+ Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

When it comes right down to it, there is no burden so heavy as sin. There is nothing that saps true vitality so much as an uneasy conscience, as that distortion of the soul that results from not living up to our destiny as sons and daughters of a holy God.

“Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for My yoke is easy and My burden light” Matthew 11: 29-30

From the outside, this seems impossible. Jesus expects so much of us–loving our enemies, doing good to those who hurt us, giving up our very lives for His sake. How can that be easy?!

Imagine for a moment that you’re unfamiliar with keys. You come upon a locked door and struggle mightily to open it, breaking a window here and making a dent in the door there and even preparing to remove hinges in order to open the door. You have a key, which looks like it might be roughly the right shape to pry the hinges off, but it keeps bending when you try. Then someone comes up behind you and gently suggests that you take that key, insert it in the hole in the doorknob and turn it. He even offers to straighten out the key and fix the damage to the door for you. It’s not what you were planning to do, it seems like a strange thing to do (you can’t pry the hinges off from there, can you?) and all in all, it seems like a waste of effort. But if you try it, it suddenly becomes remarkably easy to open the door, all because you’re now using the key and the door the way they were intended to be used.

When we sin, we are using our lives in a way they were never designed to be used. We’re denting the door and bending the key, as it were. Jesus knows how our lives are meant to be used, since He’s the one who designed them. He can forgive our iniquity, heal our diseases, redeem our life from the Pit and crown us with steadfast love and mercy (see Psalm 103:3-4)–or in other words, straighten out the bent key and repair the dented door–through the Sacrament of Confession. If we learn from Him by spending time with Him in prayer and sacred reading, He will show us how our lives were meant to be lived so that we won’t be fighting against our very nature. It will still require effort, yes, especially since it’s so new to us and we have to un-learn years of practise in doing things the hard way. But as we get the hang of it, we discover that holiness is not nearly so hard or painful as we expected. We begin to experience a whole new peace and joy, new strength and ability we never dreamed possible.
Here is the difference between the joys of the world and the cross of Jesus Christ: after having tasted the first, one is less desirous for them; and on the contrary, the more one partakes of the cross, the greater one’s thirst for it. -St. Ignatius (found in Butler’s Lives of the Saints)
Gradually, things that once seemed utterly impossible become as natural as breathing…and as desirable.
We who have been fainting, exhausted by the struggle to “open the door” by brute force, will find our strength renewed because of our hope in the Lord (see Isaiah 40:29-31).

In our preparation for the coming of the Lord, may we take Him up on His invitation to come to Him and learn from Him, that we might find rest for our souls.

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