There was a famous preacher who Sunday after Sunday faced a large, attentive congregation. One Sunday as he approached the pulpit the worlds of the Gospel were ringing in his ears: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” A thought suddenly struck him: It’s not the Lord’s paths that need to be straightened out but ours. From the pulpit he looked into the expectant faces of the men and women before him, and wondered what these words might mean for them. What were the things that needed to be straightened out in their lives? He realized that only they could answer that. Nevertheless, there was one area he felt qualified to speak about—their often twisted and tangled relationships.
He had known these people for a long time. They had come to him for help and guidance with their problems. He knew the petty spites that embittered their hearts, the animosities that set neighbor against neighbor, the silly quarrels that were kept alive, the jealousies and misunderstandings, the stubborn pride.
He decided to address a message to those bitter, unbending ones who refused to forgive and forget. He would impress on them that life was too short to hold grudges and resentments. He would plead with them for tolerance and understanding. He would speak to them from the heart as though he was speaking to each separately. So he began:
“Let me repeat to you the words of the Gospel, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” It’s not the Lord’s paths that need to be straightened out but ours.
We let misunderstandings run on from year to year, meaning to clear them up some day. We keep quarrels alive because we cannot quite make up our minds to sacrifice our pride and end them. We pass people sullenly, not speaking to them out of some silly spite, and yet knowing that it would fill us with shame and remorse if we heard that one of them were dead tomorrow.
If only we could realize that the time is short, how it would break the spell. How we would go instantly and do the thing which we might never have another chance to do.
I repeat: It’s not the Lord’s paths that need to be straightened out but ours. So, if there is some crooked attitude, or some crooked way of behaving, or some crooked relationship that needs to be straightened out, let us straighten it out. Then we will truly be preparing the way for the Lord to come to us.”
He ended his sermon there. His words are worth our reflection. God doesn’t abandon us when we stray from the straight path. God keeps calling us back from our crooked ways to the straight path. Advent is an excellent time to aim ourselves in the right direction, and to commit ourselves to the right path.
How can we “Welcome the Word?” Simply by asking the Lord to take the blindness from our eyes, the weakness from our wills, and the hardness from our hearts, so that our lives may be flooded by the grace of his coming.
– Fr. Dennis, December 9, 2018