“Make Straight the Paths of the Lord”

The night of November 14th was bone-chilling cold! So cold infact, that even wearing two pairs of wool socks and heavy combat boots didn’t keep Officer Larry DePrimo warm as he walked his beat through Times Square.  It was around 8 o’clock  that night when Officer DePrimo encountered a shoeless, barefooted elderly man hobbling down 7th Avenue.  Many people passed by, either not noticing the man or not caring to help; but not Officer DePrimo.

“It was freezing out there” he said “and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet.  I could only imagine how cold that pavement was.  I had to do something.” Sitting the man down on the pavement outside of a shoe store, the officer went inside and bought a pair of thermal socks and insulated winter boots.  He returned to the man, knelt down and put the footwear on him.  As he did that, the man just smiled ear to ear.  Officer DePrimo said he keeps the receipt for those boots tucked inside his bullet-proof vest just to remind him that no matter how bad things seem to be, some people have it even worse.

The officer expected nothing in return for his act of kindness. But a tourist from Arizona witnessed him helping the elderly man and took a picture of them with her cellphone.  She posted it on Facebook.  Within hours that picture went viral and has since been seen by over a million people.  You probably saw it too, either on the internet or in a story on the evening news.

The prophets Baruch and Isaiah tell us today to prepare the way of the Lord.  Make low every mountain and hill and fill every gorge and valley.  Of course they weren’t speaking about reconstructing rough roads or straightening winding streets.  Rather, they urge us to make straight the path that leads from the heart of Jesus to our own hearts, and then from there to the hearts of others. On that cold night in November, Officer Larry DePrimo did just that by sharing a moment of love, in caring for his fellow man.

Before we can truly experience the glory and wonder of the Birth of our Lord Jesus, we need to make straight the path of our own life. We need to be sure that nothing hinders us from receiving the full measure of God’s favor toward us.  We need to be sure that the road we have constructed does indeed lead to our salvation.

This season of Advent is a time for us to both prepare and to repair the road that leads us to God.  St. John’s cry in the desert, “Make straight the paths of the Lord,” point us to the roadwork we need to do to get ready for the coming of Jesus. Here’s our task: Level the hills and valleys that create unevenness in our life; Remove the obstacles that prevent us from hearing the “Good News” of the Gospel and sharing it with others.

Today’s readings invite us to reflect on the type of “spiritual roadwork” each of us needs to do. What are the hills and mountains that need leveling?  It may be a prideful attitude, an unwillingness to forgive, a resentment of someone’s success, or greed.  The valleys and gorges to be filled are visible as well; do we always find fault in others, are we jealous, do we bully people at work, are we indifferent to the plight of those around us?

The spiritual “roadwork” you undertake during Advent will be completed by a road crew of one.  The work of repairing or strengthening your spiritual life starts and ends with you. Only you know the extent of the reconstruction work that’s needed to prepare yourself for the coming of Our Lord.

But there is help available! I’m sure you’ve noticed that the readings of Advent focus, not on the birth of Jesus, but on the spiritual rebirth of each one of us.  The readings were chosen to guide us in our work of making straight the path that leads to God.  The Advent readings show us how to use the tools of justice, compassion, caring for our fellow man, prayer, repentance, humility and love to complete the work before us.

Here are a few things to do this Advent to make straight your path to salvation:

–      Start by listening closely to the Good news of the Gospel and opening your hearts to the message of God’s love.  Spend a few minutes this evening with your family re-reading and reflecting on the word of God that you just heard.  Ask yourself: What do I have to do, as St. Paul says, “to discern what is of value” in order to be ready for the day of Christ?

–      In preparing to “make straight your path,” think about the obstacles that stand in your way and pray for the grace to act forcefully and with love to remove them.

–      And then, with the same love shown to a stranger by Officer Larry DePrimo, let your
voice and actions announce that God is near indeed!

This Advent, do all that is needed to

“Prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight His paths.”