The readings this week have a lot to do with transportation and movement and journeys. They mention hills and mountains and roads and valleys. They are symbols of our journey with – and to – God.
Sometimes we find ourselves in spiritual and emotional valleys. Valleys are dark locations. They are places of depression and worry. It has been said that there are two things you cannot lie to. You can’t lie to your body and you can’t lie to your God. When we find ourselves here, God is sending you a warning. Something is wrong. Your body is probably telling you that as well. Tight stomach, poor sleep, poor appetite, nervousness, irritability all point to the fact that something is wrong. People in valleys often pray to God and ask him to take the pain away. God might – might – be saying, “No”. Stop going down this path. You’re hurting yourself. You need to change some things, job, relationship, hobby, address a health issue. Something is affecting the Temple of The Holy Spirit and the Lord is sending a warning. This is a human issue. The solution is often something in the human dimension – its medical or relational or occupational or emotional.
Winding roads are the so-called wrong path. They are moral pitfalls. They are roads we travel that lead us to decisions we regret and places we did not want to go. You are choosing something that is absolutely breaking one of the Commandments – and you know it. If you persist in this, it is often accompanied by a sense of being in a valley. This is a spiritual issue. The solution starts with Confession. It might also involve some type of emotional or psychological intervention or spiritual direction or both to get to the root of the issue.
Mountains can sometimes feel like winding roads and valleys but they have a different character. You’re not doing anything wrong, but life is just really hard. These challenging times are meant to train. You have a date with destiny. God has a new assignment for you. The road leads to a summit- a peak experience. He is bringing you to the top of a mountain where you will celebrate, probably with others. With this also comes experience. God will use you with your newly and hard-won experience to mentor and lead and guide others who are climbing the mints in that you had to climb. This is a pastoral issue. It will require numerous and various resources. It will require spiritual resources like the sacraments and consulting and studying – not just casually reading – the Scriptures. It will require the Sacraments, regularly and consistently. It might require training to acquire new skills in the human realm.Finally it will definitely require connection to a community. Nobody climbs Everest alone. You only make it with the help of others.
Rough ways are places that lead to a cave in which the shaman or holy man or guru sits. These are places that crush you. You realized that you’ve lost and that you have nowhere else to go and there is nothing else you can do to fix the situation. This is not a place of defeat – it is a place of surrender. As it says in Luke’s Gospel today, it is a place that God allows you to journey to let you “see the salvation of God.” You turn it all over to God and God brings about the resolution, often with remarkable results.
We are in week two of our Advent Journey – two candles lit, two more left. Where are you in your life right now? Are you in a dark valley? Are you twisting and turning on a sinful highway? Are you a spiritual Edmond Hillary climbing towards a victorious summit? Are you at a place where God is saying, “My child, just let it go. Let me handle it?”
Why is it important to do the analysis? On any journey you first need to know where you are before you decide which direction you go. Discern that incorrectly and you head in the wrong direction. You waste time and energy and resources and end up frustrated and defeated. Discern it correctly and you end up on the right path towards – and accompanied by – our Lord.