SUNDAY GOSPEL LECTIO DIVINA RSS

“make straight his paths … The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth”

Perhaps this is where part of the expression, “The straight and narrow” comes from. That is the Christian way, they say. Yet, that has not been my experience. The Christian road for me is often winding as it meanders through rough terrain. When I think the Lord is calling me to take a straight shot to some goal in life, when I try to execute the plan, real life gets in the way and I end up going around obstacles rather than plowing straight through them. “The Lord writes straight with crooked lines” seems to be the more accurate saying. But what are we to say of this verse from Isaiah quoted by Luke? On our life journey, does God want us to take obstacles head on instead of going around them? Perhaps. Maybe he wants us to build bridges and tunnels instead of winding our way through the valleys, where we often get lost and stuck anyway. 

As a map buff, I like to measure the distance between two places “as the crow flies”. That would be the “straight path”. But the terrain of the real world makes it nearly impossible. Is Isaiah being idealistic in saying we should make straight the path of the Lord? Is that even doable in real life?

With humans it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. All valleys are passable. The Lord makes a way where there is no way. If we think we can’t be resolute in living the Christian life no matter what obstacles come across our path, we are thinking the way the world does. The way of the world sees lack of money, public opinion, time, distance, what’s been done before, what’s never been done, and many other things as obstacles. John is saying that when our eyes are fixed upon the Lord, we start to see things the way heaven does and all these miniscule impediments become like pebbles on our path. The saints didn’t let anything get in the way of doing God’s will. With their eyes fixed on heaven, they knew what they had to do. Miracles happened as a result.  

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Every year at this time, we are reminded of the temporality of life on earth, and the earth itself. Jesus, the king of kings, invites all of humanity to a new heaven and a new earth. But we have to be willing to let our current world pass away. When the signs that Jesus speaks of come to pass, those who hold onto this world will be upset with Christians for saying the end is near. Christians will be persecuted probably more than ever. But Jesus will raise those who died in Christ, and save those who are living in Christ from the final judgment. In the midst of the commercialization of this Advent season, it’s very easy to lose sight of the truth that Christ is coming again. We celebrate not only his coming on Christmas day, but also the hope of his Second Coming. Let’s use the weeks leading up to Christmas to remind each other of Christ’s potent message in this Sunday’s Gospel: Be ready. Be vigilant and pray. For the Son of Man is coming.

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When we open our hearts and minds to the truth, we find Jesus dwelling there. He is a very distinct person, and you know him when you hear him. We all know this from experience, for he speaks to all of us. But there are many other voices that get in the way of us hearing it, and from abiding in the truth. Sometimes we refuse to admit our sins. Sometimes our fears get in the way of hearing God’s voice. Sometimes it’s just sheer desire for something other than the truth because we feel like the truth is not enough. Sometimes we do hear his voice, but we assume it’s something else. It is a challenge to trust in Jesus and believe that there is nothing better than belonging to the truth, and choosing it at every moment of decision. But we can be confident that nothing the world has to offer can compare to Jesus’ fulfilled promises, and nothing the world can do to us can take away what God has to give us when we abide in him, the truth.

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Whether God is delaying the Second Coming as he waits for humanity to fully embrace him, or whether he is waiting for us to fully abandon him before he brings judgment, is yet another layer of the mystery. What we can know, however, is that it is always better to love God and encourage others to do so as well; because at the very least it will stay his hand of judgment. At the very best, and hopefully more likely, loving God will cause us to be welcomed into his kingdom when he comes again--and the more people who are blessed to receive that end the better. This is what God wants as well, for he “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

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“She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

It’s tough to tithe. Consider how tough it must have been for this poor widow to give all she had to the Temple. What faith it must have taken! Where would she get her next meal? How would she pay her taxes? This is an act of not only giving all her money to God, but all her hope as well. As Christ said, she gave her whole livelihood. She depended on God so much that she believed he would sustain her life. What a far cry my faith is from that of the poor widow. God has always provided for me, especially when I’m generous and charitable. And yet, I still hold back. I still don’t give nearly as much as I should back to him. The poor widow relied on God so completely that she was content to give up whatever she had just to show God her faith and gratitude for sustaining her up to that point. It would be interesting to learn what happened to this widow afterwards. She probably did not receive any great fortune here on earth. It is certain that she stored up great treasures in heaven, though.

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