by Sister Theresa Spinler
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Advent is a time of letting go and preparing for the new. In the readings, we hear of taking off the robes of misery and making straight the paths, and of the forests and fragrant trees overshadowing Israel so that the good work begun in us will continue.
My thoughts immediately went to trees and forests, for trees are such marvelous teachers. We are surrounded by them: short, tall, crooked, straight, stubby – all have their own unique beauty, personality, and purpose. Most of the time they are quiet and observant except when the blowing wind causes their leaves and branches to dance and sing. They know how to shed the old and unneeded leaves and branches with the belief that the new ones will come. Even the shed leaves, needles, and cones provide protection and food for other parts of creation.
We see the community of trees above ground supplying us with life, but underground they form a network, a community that is strong and intertwined to support one another through their root system. We are like the trees forming community rooted in our faith and in the Benedictine way of life. We are each so unique and do find support and strength in each other.
In Baruch, we hear God calling the forest trees to give shade to those traveling back to Israel so their travels will be easier. We hear the call to make the valleys and mountains level so travel will be simpler. On our journey this Advent, we are called to fill in valleys of hurts, get rid of robes of misery, so that our path can be smooth and straight, traveling the path to God.
Both Baruch and John the Baptist call us to fill the valleys and lower the mountains so we can see clearly and walk straight on the path with integrity and truth. We each know personally what we need to do or shed in order to fill in valleys and lower mountains, so our path will lead us more fully into the life of Christ.
Paul has a very positive word for us when he explains how the work of God begun in us will continue and the road will be made smooth. As the trees develop at their own pace, so do we, being patient and understanding of ourselves and one another.
And we are reminded of the words of the Psalmist, “God has done great things for us.” Yes, God continues to do great things in and for us. Let us recognize these great things in ourselves and others, giving thanks and being as patient as the trees moving in concert and harmony with all creation. So, with our hope rekindled, we continue moving and growing more fully into God’s love.
Advent is a good time to do this.