Driving down the street recently I saw a beautiful Sycamore tree being cut down; one that I truly loved because of its unique size and coloring. It had been there long, long before I came to this earth with its smooth, white limbs reaching to the heavens. It was so different from all of the others trees nearby. It reminded me of a pair of white bucks in a world of brown loafers.
After the workmen left, I went to pay my respects to this ancient colossus and was shocked to see what lay before me. Although this giant had appeared to be a rock-solid, flourishing, botanical skyscraper, at its center was absolute rot, mere sponge, not solid in the least. Its outward appearance gave no hint of this interior decay. I had noticed that its leaves and fruit had begun to be a bit sparse, but truly, other than that, it looked just fine. Upon closer examination, I could see where years and years of decay had taken hold. The deterioration probably started out as a consequence of the tiniest of insects seeking a home. Perhaps, something no bigger than, say the head of a match, brought down this ignoble soldier.
As we wind up this liturgical year in Mass, we have been reading verses from one of the strangest, most mysterious and therefore one of my all time favorite books in the Bible, the Book of Revelation. Now, for most people, this book would not be on their top ten list. But it is for me. I fell in love while studying and writing about it several years ago.
No other book promises us a blessing just for hearing or reading it. No other book shows what an incredibly complex and sovereign God we serve. No other book displays God's holiness, power, majesty and beauty quite like this one does Nor do other books challenge me to the extent this one does. It cuts me to the quick!
We recently read these words of the Risen Christ...
"I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." Revelation 3:1.
After seeing the tree and reading this I started to wonder…what in my own heart could I be harboring that, at first, seemed harmless... only a trifling. (As my spiritual coach pointed out to me, Judas stole money from the purse, but not even his own brothers knew this... it must have been the tiniest amount to go unnoticed and yet in the end...it had deadly consequences.) How could I rid myself of the harmful "pests" of sin- even small ones that potentially could be detrimental to my soul?
The answer... I can't.
Only HE can. Jesus, the Great Physician, Jesus the great Heart Surgeon, Jesus the Heavenly Exterminator of deadly pests. Only He can do what I cannot. I need only ask.
A bit later in this same section of the Book of Revelation, Jesus says this: "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears my voice and will open the door to me, I will enter and dine with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20
He is standing there, just waiting for us to let Him into our hearts to do what only He can do.
As we head into Advent I hope that you will pray this Psalm with me. And if He lovingly shows you a spot in need of repair work, that you will go to confession, His field hospital here on planet earth, where, not only are things cleaned out, but the grace is given for a clean start and new growth to happen. What a wonderful way to enter into this season of expectancy.
And if you are not a Catholic, I pray that you will take the time to stop and to confess in prayer and ask for His help to deal with whatever it is that He shows you.
"Create a clean heart in me, O God. And renew an upright spirit within my inmost being. Do not cast me away from your face; and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and confirm me with an unsurpassed spirit. I will teach the unjust your ways, and the impious will be converted to you." Psalm 51:12-15.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.