Making Straight the Path to Joy

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

john the baptist

Gospel reflection for the 2nd week of Advent

Gospel of Luke 3:1-6 NAB

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

 Meditation Reflection:

 John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the prophets, gave us the final message from God regarding preparation for the promised Savior – Repent.  If we remain blind to our sins, we also fail to see our need for a savior.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his book In the Beginning, made the observation that our culture has replaced the word “sin” with more palatable (and less personal) terms like “non-standard” behavior.  By doing so, it removes personal responsibility for immoral behavior, often excusing it away by blaming anything other than the person.  As a result, the task for evangelization today he concludes, is to be brave enough to talk about sin.

Don’t worry, this won’t be a throwback to fire and brimstone preaching.  Recall the reason God asked for repentance – so we could receive healing and mercy.  You probably know of someone who did not want to go to the doctor so he or she kept insisting they weren’t sick.  Pretending to be healthy only caused their illness to worsen.  Similarly, if we do not face our spiritual illnesses they grow in strength and deadliness.

In The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, she relates this advice from Christ regarding examining our souls:

I do not wish the soul to consider her sins, either in general or in particular, without also remembering the Blood and the broadness of my Mercy.”

Christ also revealed to St. Faustina that His greatest pain is when a soul refuses His mercy due to a lack of faith in His love and forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins so that we may turn to Christ for forgiveness and transformation.  It would be false modesty and possibly even the sin of pride or despair to willfully believe that Christ cannot or will not forgive you.  In the first reading for today from Baruch 5:1, God commands: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”  We must mourn our sins sincerely, then we must also accept the forgiveness and joy of God.

The Catechism defines sin in this way:

Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” Paragraph 1849

Sin usually means putting a lower good above a higher good – the order being God, Humans, Animals, Plants, Inanimate objects.  When we put objects before people, people before God, animals before people, or things before animals, we act in a “disordered” way.  In modern terms, our priorities are mixed up.  When examining your life consider your priorities not merely as standard or non-standard, but as faithful to God or sinful.

The Church identifies seven capital sins, or those sins that encompass most of the sins or vices we commit.  They include Pride, Avarice (Greed), Gluttony (Overindulgence), Envy, Wrath (Anger), Lust, and Sloth. Reading about each of these sins can be eye-opening.  Every time I teach on this subject, I find more ways they apply to me and have to go to Confession.  Self-knowledge however is the first step in the spiritual life.  Jesus begins the beatitudes with “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, meaning those who recognize their poverty before God and need for Him.  Then He says, “Blessed are those who mourn” meaning those who, in seeing their sinful state, grieve over their sins.  This is followed up by the promise that one day they will rejoice (just as God prophesied through Baruch). The beatitudes continue to build from there to purity of heart wherein one may see God and finally a state of peace wherein one enjoys living as God’s child.

Christ urges us to have the courage and humility to examine our consciences and our lives, to endure the unpleasant feelings so as to make it to the other side where we will have joy and peace.

Consider:

  •  Reflect on Christ’s mercy and His mercy toward you in particular.
  • Read about and reflect on the seven capital sins.
  • Read and reflect on the Beatitudes.  (Matthew 5:3-12)

 

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Actively try to overcome a sin through prayer and practicing the opposite virtue.
    • (for example, to oppose gluttony intentionally fast from something you like; or to oppose sloth, get up 30 minutes earlier than usual)
  • Reflect on one beatitude a day.
  • Extend mercy to someone in gratitude for Christ’s mercy toward you.

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