President Eisenhower will live long in the hearts and minds of Americans. The young may not know much about him but it doesn’t take much effort to understand his contribution to our nation building. When you drive on any Interstate of four-lane or more highway across the country, remember Eisenhower. For example, Interstate 90 (I-90) runs from Boston Massachusetts to Seattle Washington, spanning a distance of 3,099 miles of highway that cut through mountains, valleys, rivers and thick forests. Interstate 10 runs from Jacksonville Florida to Santa Monica California, a distance of 2,460 miles connecting other highways and interstates, and transporting people, goods and services from one section of the country to the other. The super-highways that first served for military purposes, namely, to deploy troops to any part of the country without delay, have become essential for civilian life. This Advent we reflect on the spiritual import of erecting in our hearts a superhighway for the Lord.
John the Baptist calls for the construction of a superhighway for the coming of the Prince of Peace. That makes him greater than Eisenhower who promoted the building of superhighways for the quick deployment of troops. His message was that we reform our lives for the deployment of the arsenal of righteousness and peace and so that the Lord can find unrestrained access to us as we await his advent. We’re to remove the hazards and IEDs on the way, flatten the hills, fill up broken precipices and straighten ways twisted with curves.
To flatten the hills means to reduce the heights of our pride, arrogance, vanity, self-sufficiency, wrath, and impatience. To fill up broken precipices means to seal with the wax of God’s mercy holes created in us by the baseness of our ego, our revenge, rivalries, hatred, and retaliations—sins that make it difficult to live in harmony with others and prevent the accomplishment of the Kingdom of Peace and Justice that Christ brings. To straighten the ways twisted with curves means to rectify our ways, change our course, if we go by twisted and mistaken ways that do not take us to God.
I am sure that if I pause for half a minutes now, many of us will be able to recall half a dozen things we did which we regret and would like to erase from our lives, if we could. Some are hurts, disappointments, anger and folly, folded up and gently tucked inside our subconscious, which we fear to ignite. A well-known novelist, Somerset Maugham, after numerous visits to the counselor said: “I have committed follies; I have a sensitive conscience and I have done things in my life that I am unable to entirely forget: if I had been fortunate enough to be a Catholic, I could have delivered myself of them at confession and after performing the penance imposed, received absolution, put them out of my mind forever.” I am sure many Catholics, including me, are not very excited about confession, just like a child dreads the visit to the dentist. But a decaying tooth doesn’t care about your dread of the dentist. The consequences of staying away may become severe damage to your teeth. Similarly, the consequences of staying away from confession may be irreparable damage to your eternal salvation.
Are you alone, in this cold winter, wandering along the dark edge of night, sharpening the peaks of your pride, letting your blind ambitions and selfishness become mountain-sized obstacles between you and God? Have your stock of cheating, lying and crookedness turned to hairpin curves and you find yourself at the dead end of life devoid of joy? This advent the Lord comes to tear down those mountains and valleys that sin has created. Are you ready to welcome Him? He comes humbly as a child and invites us to humble ourselves too, because according to him, “Only the childlike goes to heaven.”
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo