First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Mark 24:37-44
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen November 27, 2022
I remember the first time I was lost. It happened on a hunting trip to northern Maine. We had to drive into Canada and then into to Maine because there were no roads where we were going. At the end of the road, we were met by a logging company worker who transported us, and all our supplies, to a tiny cabin deep into the Maine woods. Early the next morning I started out, walking far into the woods and looking for deer. After several hours I found tracks in the deep snow, but they were not the tracks of a deer. They were fresh bear tracks, and I immediately began to follow them. For the rest of the day, through the woods, down the mountain and up the other side, through the valley and across the stream I followed those tracks until the light began to fail. Only then did I realize I was lost and had no idea of where I was. I remembered the beginning words of Dante's Inferno, where he wrote: "Midway in the journey of life I came to myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost." Only then did I pray, asking God to point me in the right direction, back to the cabin. You can never find your way back until you know that you are lost. That is the way with Grace, without it, our suffering seems destined never to cease. Only when Grace makes an entrance, do we recognize that we have been lost, that our life was meant to be better than we have known it. How often in our life, do we recognize that somewhere along the line, we have lost our way? Of course, we cannot force insight upon ourselves. We must wait for that time when we fall off a cliff or fall flat on our face, and yet find ourselves relieved that we can still wake up from the nightmare.
We must wait for the time when those whom we dearly love bitterly disappoint us, or when we realize that we do not know our way out of the woods. It's a horrible feeling knowing that we are lost. Yet it is a Grace because we were long lost without knowing it. Only the insight is new, and it is one of God's great mercies. Grace is always a gift, We neither earn it nor can we command its appearance. But in Advent we are told to wait for its coming. More than that we are to yearn for it. "Brothers and Sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand." Christmas breaks a lot of hearts because it drives home the distance between how life is and how our hearts, deep down, know that it should be. In her wisdom, the Church gives us the season of Advent to prepare for Christmas. However, before we sing the songs of Christmas, we can at least pray for the awareness, however scary, that we have lost our way.