Reflection on the Second Sunday of Advent
At least two times since living here I have seen crooked roads made straight: Bardstown Road into Louisville and more recently Highway 49 from Loretto to Lebanon. Those projects took months, even years to complete. Perhaps we can learn from them that what the Gospel calls us to today, metanoia, changing our hearts to see the suffering in our world.
Luke’s Gospel was written in the early ‘80s, not for a single community like those of Matthew, Mark and John, but for Christians scattered around in various areas. The temple and Jewish leadership had been destroyed. Up to this time, the Christians combined their Jewish and Christian practices But now, the Pharisees had assumed leadership and pushed the Christians away from the synagogues. So this is a group of people struggling to find out how to practice what they had come to believe through the teaching of Jesus in a new setting.
In the words of Isaiah God promises, “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. “
As we look around at the chaos in our world today, we have to remember that those words apply to our world in 2021, too. There are still crooked roads, some as old as those of the first century and others new to our times. They had Christians vs. Jews, Romans vs. their subjects. We have People of color vs. white people, immigrants vs. citizens. wealthy vs. poor, justice for some but not for others. We wonder will these paths ever be made straight. How can I help?
First, we have to recognize what is bent, curved, winding in ourselves. If we can’t see it in ourselves we can’t help others to recognize it. Recently, we have been made very aware of the suffering of people of color and indigenous peoples, and it makes us look at ourselves and as, what are my attitudes, fears, prejudices? What do I need to change?
Second, as citizens and voters, we need to look at the many discriminatory laws our government has been put in place to keep certain people in their place – laws written and unwritten about housing areas, interest rates, property taxes, mortgages, voting rights, educational opportunities, jobs. The list is endless, and if you want to find out more about it, read a book called “The Sum of Us,” by Heather McGhee. It has been a real eye-opener for me. Is there action we can take to protest these laws?
Third, as people of God we can be hopeful and trusting that in the end, the Kingdom of God will prevail on this earth. Our God is love. True love allows the beloved to be free. God lets us make our own choices – to love or not to love or to be indifferent to what is happening around us. But whether we recognize it or not, God is still there, still loving us, supporting us in our good choices and forgiving us for our bad choices. God is there to strengthen and support us in our efforts to straighten the crooked pathways.
It has taken us billions of years to arrive at this moment in time. We have wonderfully intelligent people who can figure out the age of the universe, study galaxies, stars, planets, the minute cells that make up matter, the speed of light, how to lift tons of metal up into the air to fly across oceans and continents, how to land a robot on Mars and people on the moon. Surely, we can also figure out how to establish equality, justice and peace for all people on this planet. Surely, we can find ways to reverse the devastation of our planet. Our job is to continue, over and over, to raise consciousness of the real needs of people and to continue to live in this Kingdom of God as faithful disciples.
Like the people for whom Luke was writing, we are scattered all over the planet in the midst of chaos and ferment. The Gospel calls us to metanoia, to look into ourselves for our own need to change and to love everyone, good or bad; to look out on our world with compassion and hope. No matter how hopeless it may seem, know that the God of Love is still here in our midst. St. Augustine asks what is love, and answers, “Love has hands to help others. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others. “