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Tuesday, Second Week of Advent

December 9, 2008

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

Readings:
Isaiah 40:1-11 (prepare the way for our God, Who comes to shepherd us)
Psalm 96:1-3, 10-13 “Our Lord Comes in strength”
+ Matthew 18:12-14 (the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to search for the stray)

Suppose I told you that there’s someone who can solve all your problems, the smallest irritations as well as the biggest, most crushing weights. He can find your lost car keys, train your children to be perfect little angels, silence the neighbor’s barking dog, thin out rush hour traffic, make peace between you & your in-laws, anything. Sounds too good to be true, right? Or a fairy tale, perhaps. Well, fire up your imagination & step into the fairy tale with me. Suppose that there is someone who can solve all your problems.

Now suppose that this person not only can solve all your problems, but that he passionately longs for the privilege. Nothing would delight him more. He would give up absolutely everything to make your life perfect in every detail. And there’s no catch. He’s all-good. It’s not just a ploy to suck you in and drain you dry. He really wants you to live happily ever after. The only thing that could possibly stop him is … you.

What would you do if you learned that he was on his way to your house? Would you pile snow onto the driveway so he couldn’t get in? Would you lock all your doors, booby-trap the front steps, close the curtains, invite his worst enemy, turn up the stereo and keep yourself frantically busy so you couldn’t possibly hear his knock?

Would you completely ignore the news, going about business as usual?

Would you clear the driveway, salt it to melt the ice, put out the “welcome” mat, scour and decorate the house from top to bottom, dress in your finest and wait with baited breath for his arrival?

Isaiah tells us that He’s coming. Even after all Israel’s rejections of Him, after all her idolatry, betrayal, broken promises, injustice and cruelty toward Him, He still loves her. He’s coming in strength to save her, to soothe her, to gather her into His arms. Isn’t it time to clear away the obstacles, to straighten out the roads, level the mountains and fill in the valleys to welcome Him?

Our Shepherd knows us. He knows that sheep are foolish, that lost sheep rarely come along peaceably:
***
And then there’s one last picture our Lord has given us, the most familiar of all; the good Shepherd going out in search of the lost sheep. He owns us, and he can’t bear to lose us. We are all familiar with the picture, but there’s one thing we tend to forget about it. When a sheep gets caught, say, in a bush, and the shepherd comes to free it, you don’t find the sheep sitting there quiet under the process; it struggles like mad–to get away from the shepherd. He has to save it in spite of itself. And so it is with a human soul that has fallen into grave sin; the grace which sets it free is something it doesn’t want, something it is tempted to refuse. Somebody ought to paint a picture of the good Shepherd coming to rescue his sheep, and the sheep trying to get away. -Ronald Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion
***

Jesus doesn’t believe that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. He has 99 sheep safe in His fold, but He’s left them behind because He’s missing one. He misses you…terribly.

***
When we are sick to death in sin, God’s love seems to be fanned to white heat, and He gives us services that at other times of health are not needed. He does not love the lamb more than the ninety-nine, but He does seem to love it more; it needs more. They that need less are not loved less. Equal love of souls, in unequal stress, demands unequal service. -V. McNabb, O.P., God’s Way of Mercy
***

None of us can claim to be the 99 safe in the fold. The Fathers of the Early Church suggest that Jesus is referring to the good angels, whom He left behind in Heaven when He became Man on earth!

The question is, what kind of lost lamb will we be? Will we struggle to get away from our Savior? Or will we do everything in our power to welcome Him, to make ourselves receptive to His rescue?

Let every heart not only prepare Him room, and may we make that room fit for a King!

P.S….all those problems? They’ll all be solved in Heaven 🙂

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