Second Sunday of Advent
On my way back from giving a retreat one winter's day, I stood in Maam Valley admiring the mountains, pondering the words of the Prophet Isaiah - Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low. (Isaiah 40) - and I thought, what a sad prophecy. It didn't make sense to me to think of such majesty being lowered, filled in; majesty that speaks so clearly of the Beauty and Majesty of God.
Then I understood that the levelling and the filling in are about making it easier for God and His people to meet. The simplyfying of religion, making it less complicated. It is done by making a straight highway for our God - preceding verse from Isaiah 40.
Among recent developments that I love most in Ireland are the motorways that make travel quicker, easier and less stressful - the M6 to Galway in particular. Some complain that it has made travel boring but not for me!
I have found in it a symbol and a paralell for the spiritual journey that I am on - the most direct route to God. St. Therese the Little Flower had a vision in which she was about to begin making the journey to God by climbing an enormous stairway but she noticed that there was also an elevator which would make the ascent to God quicker, more direct and straightforward. The elevator represents the Little Way of total childlike trust in God, the way of simplicity and surrender. In my case the motorway is the elevator!
As there are rules of the road that apply on the motorway, so there is a rule to the spiritual way of simplicity. It is the rule of the Gospel, the life of Our Lord Jesus. This was the original intention of St. Vincent Pallotti, that our rule of life would be the life of Jesus himself and if we follow Him faithfully, if we take Him as the Way, then our life will be well lived and no other rule or law would be necessary.
The Way of Jesus is the way of union with the will of the Father and, like Jesus, we are invited to surrender our will to the Father and by our surrender to discover that in His will we find peace, a peace that is quite distinctive, unique. It is a peace that is not gained from all the beautiful material trappings and Christmas decoration. Peace is the certain fruit in the way direct of simplicity and surrender.
There's an interesting section of the M6 somewhere near Ballinasloe, an area where they encountered solid rock which they cut through and now on the left hand side heading towards Galway there's this fabulous wall of rock. I always admire it and think it's a wonderful achievement, a beautiful sight.
This too reminds me of the obstacles we encounter on our spiritual journey, obstacles that can be solid and obstinate as rock. The promise is that all such obstacles will be cut through so that we may pass more easily along the Way. It is not a promise of life free from difficulty and challenge but it is a route that is certain, supported by divine grace and more direct than any other.
It's our habit and tendency to make our own way in life, to want our own way and in pursuing it we climb many mountains, traverse valleys and travel a multitude of winding roads that make reaching our destination more difficult and uncertain.
We fear surrender to the will of God. We fear it as the Israelites feared crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. Their fear prevented them moving in the right direction and, as a result, they spent 40 years wandering in the desert.
There is no need for us to wander on the long and winding road of our own choosing. We can take the direct, swift and simple route which is the Way of Jesus.