Our readings during this Advent season give us so much to read and think about. I had a message coming out of my 8 day silent retreat that has been on my heart and I want to share it with all of you. It seems that every day recently the readings have just added more relevance to my message. My friends, all of us I believe, are broken and hurting to some extent. We tend to hide it well. It is only by admitting our brokenness and our dependence on God that we can have a deeper relationship with him. He wants to see us healed of our sinful nature.
In Today's reading December 6th we read:Mt 18:12-14 "Jesus said to his disciples: "What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills"
This past Saturday we read from MT 10:6-8 "Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."
Let's: examine a series of other passages:
In Matthew 7:21, 24-27 "Not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
Paul tells us in Gal: 5:16-19, 22-23 "Let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of human nature. For what is human nature is opposed to what the Spirit wants, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what human nature wants. What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions. But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives."
Again in Rom 7: 14-15, 22-24 Paul makes it clear: "We know that the Law is Spiritual: but I am a mortal, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do: for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead do what I hate. My inner being delights in the Law of God. But I see a different law at work in my body - a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a PRISONER to the law of sin which is at work in my body."
Isaiah says it this way: IS 5:20, 24 20 "Ah to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness to light and light to darkness, who change bitter to sweet and sweet to bitter. Therefore, as a tongue of fire licks up stubble, as dry grass shrivels in the flame, their root shall rot and their blossoms scatter like dust: For they have rejected the instructions of the Lord of hosts, and scorned the word of the Holy One of Israel."
In his inaugural homily as pope, Benedict XVI told us: "The human race-every one of us-is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way. The Son of God will not let this happen; he cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the cross. He takes it upon his shoulders and carries our humanity; he carries us all."
Finally, Catholic author, Scott Hahn, in his book: The Lamb's Supper talks about our humanness this way: "We have an obligation, first to resist temptation. If we fail then and we sin we have an obligation to repent immediately. If we do not repent, then God lets us have our way: He allows us to experience the natural consequences of our sins, the illicit pleasures. If we fail to repent- through self denial and acts of penance- God allows us to continue in sin, thereby forming a habit, a vice, which darkens our intellect and weakens our wills"
So, is there hope for us humans? Yes! Our hope is in Jesus Christ. Psalm 103:8 tells us "merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger abounding in mercy." Verse 12 assures us: "as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our sins from us."
And the one reading from my 8 day retreat that really stuck with me is Psalm 42:2 which states: "As a deer longs for streams of water so my soul longs for you O God" . Yes we are all longing for the close relationship with Jesus.
My dear friends, our world is hurting. People are hurting. There is a spiritual war being waged inside of all of us as Paul so well pointed out above.
Coming out of our 3 Day Weekend experience we are all called to a life of continuous conversion. If we are honest with ourselves we all know there are areas of hidden darkness in each of us. We have all become experts at hiding our sinful selves from those who know us. They really only know the "us", that we shine up on the outside for the world to see. We let others see the masks we wear while we work to hide our sinful selves from the world. This process creates darkness. Most of us have some degree of darkness we keep well hidden, but we strive to overcome it as we focus on building a continuously improving relationship with our Lord.
I can say with certainty that the Lord revealed many areas of my own internal darkness or brokenness while I was on my retreat. He also made it clear to me that if I am to be able to help others break free from their darkness that imprisons them and keeps them from a fuller relationship with Jesus, then I must confront my own darkness and sinful habits.
For some people their personal sinfulness can create such an internal darkness that it affects every aspect of their life. They are prisoners to their internal darkness that is hurting them so badly.
We hold the key to help them overcome their darkness. Jesus is the light of the world. He alone can break down the walls that imprison people. And we are the ones called to bring that light to others. How are we doing?
In order to help others with their darkness, we must first be willing to shed our PRIDE and break down the walls of our own sinful habits. By becoming vulnerable and by admitting that without Jesus we can't win our own struggle against our human nature, only then can we truly become the instruments of God's light in this world.
We must recognize that people hide their "hurt" expertly. I know I have. It is only by being a true Christian friend and by removing our own false masks that we can truly reach others where they are hurting. Then we can bring Jesus to their darkness. This is an urgent need! People we see every day are hurting!
I am personally aware of two people, both Christians who committed suicide recently. Their darkness must have overwhelmed them so much so that they could not see any light. WE CAN'T WAIT! Jesus called us! Our Baptism called us! Our 3 Day Weekend called us! We must act. Let's go out today and make an effort to bring the light to those starved for the light of Christ.
I was blessed on my retreat to have my loving Lord gently reveal my own brokenness. He made me aware of my sinful habits. He assured me with his love. He presented the opportunity for me to admit that I cannot make it on my own. I had become very good at making everything on the outside look good, while hiding the darkness of sinful habits. Pride prevented me from being more open. I know there is rejoicing in heaven for I was one of those lost sheep and I am finding my way back.
As I was sharing some of these thoughts over the past two weeks I have had two long time friends confide in me that they too have built walls around some inner hurts. My admission of my struggle with sin gave them the courage to be open and honest with their inner pain. We can even be in friendship group reunion for years with others and not truly reveal our own brokenness or possibly not present the ideal atmosphere for others to be open about their inner selves.
Lord, give us the courage to admit our weakness and to seek our comfort in your light!
- Do you have an inner darkness that you keep well hidden from others?
- Does your darkness work to separate you from a closer walk with God?
- Has your pride kept you from revealing your weakness and therefore prevented others from being an instrument of light for you?
- By revealing the real sinful and weak person that you are and by admitting that without Christ you can't win the battle by yourself, will you then be able to reach others better?