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Thursday, Second Week of Advent

December 14, 2006

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

Readings:
Isaiah 41:13-20 (God will help us turn desolation into luxuriant growth)
Psalm 145:1, 9-13 “The Lord is kind and merciful; slow to anger, and rich in compassion”
+ Matthew 11:11-15 (St. John the Baptist comes in the spirit of Elijah to point to Christ)

On our own, we’re helpless. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). God’s not exactly delicate in delivering this message. “Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:14). God didn’t stop at referring to us as stupid, smelly sheep. No, we’re worms and maggots, utterly incapable of helping ourselves. “The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain…I, the Lord…will open up rivers on the bare heights.” (Isaiah 41:17-18)

But once we realize our helplessness and allow our God to help us, even the sky isn’t a limit! When He works through us, we will thresh mountains and make the hills like chaff that the wind carries away. Jesus Himself told us that if we even had faith the size of a mustard seed–faith that allows God to work through us–we could command a mountain and it would move (Matthew 17:20).

Most of us have plenty of mountains in our lives, things that obstruct our progress toward God and His progress toward us. We’ve heard God and St. John the Baptist command that these mountains be leveled. On our own, we can’t do it. We’re little worms crawling around on those mountains. But when we let God take over, amazing things start to happen! In our Gospel, Jesus tells us, “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven has been enduring violent assault, and the violent have been seizing it by force” (Matthew 11:12). The word used for “violent” comes from the Greek word meaning “life”. When God’s vibrant life comes into these little worms, when it’s clear that God is our Source, our All, when our very being is drawn from Him, then His work can be done through us. Mountains crumble, valleys are raised, and the crooked places are made straight.

This is hardly a passive project. It’s not that we sit back and let God do all the work. He equips us to do His work with His own power, even as He equipped St. John the Baptist with the same spirit of power that He gave Elijah centuries before. Through this power, we level the mountains of pride and fill in the valleys of hopelessness in our own lives, we straighten out our own crookedness and smooth the rough spots in our personalities. Anything that blocks or restricts our relationship with God succumbs beneath the violence of His love.

We usually don’t think of love as being violent, but when it comes to sin, to a threat to our relationship with God, love is “stern as death…relentless as the netherworld…its flames are a blazing fire” (Song of Songs 8:6). It was love that drove Christ to endure the violence of the cross to rescue us. That same love impels us to do violence to our own earthly attachments and disordered desires when they threaten our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, when they lock us away from our place in God’s family.

May we never hesitate to surrender to the power God’s placed within us to level the mountains that keep us from Him.

Yours with rolled-up sleeves…

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