Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent 2: Make Straight the Path in the Desert


One of the desert fathers of ancient Christian Egypt tells a story of three brothers from the same village. All three determine to give their lives in service of Christ. The first, inspired by Christ's healing ministry, goes into medicine. The second, following Christ's proclamation that 'blessed are the peacemakers,' goes out among the various warlords suing for peace. The third, however, inspired by Christ's frequent retreats into prayer alone, takes himself deep into the desert to live as a hermit.

Some years pass. The first brother, who has worked tirelessly among the sick, finds that the sick keep coming, and he cannot heal them all; the second finds that however much he brokers peace, the wars around him continue. Exhausted, drained, they go to find their brother in the desert.

They tell him their troubles. Saying nothing, he takes a flask of water from its hanging, and pours it into a bowl. "What can you see?" he asks. But they can see nothing through the murk of the swilling water. Their brother tells them to wait. Gradually, the water settles and goes clear, as the dust in it separates out and sinks to the bottom. "When you are so busy," says the hermit, "you cannot see Christ clearly, and you cannot see your sins."

This Sunday marks St John the Baptist's Advent call to repentance of our sins. Despite the temptation to rush and 'get things done' before Christmas, we must take the time to reflect steadily and honestly on whatever is clouding our vision from the glory of Christ.

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