Gentleness retains strength with love
John the Baptist is our man of the week. He is gentle and quick to the point, as he states, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
These proclaimed words of John are to give us a challenge and a responsibility to gently, but forcefully, use these short winter days of Advent to work in the name of the Lord. Where in you do you need to make sometime current and straight? Do you need the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Where in you or in your relationship with God or neighbor do anger, issues of resentment or jealously need to be filled in with understanding and love? What mountains have you made in the past year that need to be taken down so there is an open heart for the Lord to enter on Christmas? All of us have winding roads of selfishness, pride, anger, jealousy and control, that need to be straightened out and smooth so that Jesus, the Messiah, the Price of Peace, may enter in on Christmas.
He does not speak with anger or like a bursting flame, asserting and trying to crush others. He could have done all these things as he was dressed differently, lived alone as a hermit in the desert and was a quiet but rather odd type of man of prayer. He may have even been a meek man, but not soft or sentimental, but strong in both what he believed and how he wanted action.
John echoes the prophetic traditions of trying to move people from sin to conversion and to follow this new man on the block, Jesus Christ. The motive and power behind John’s gentleness is strength and love — love of the other, for whose sake I remain convinced, in gentleness and strength, to ask you to follow Jesus Christ.
Only a strong person can be gentle, because gentleness restrains strength with love. Whether it is strength of body, which could destroy physically, or strength of will, that could crush voluntarily or strength of mind which could devastate intellectually. But the real motive or power behind gentleness is always love! Love of the other for whose sake I restrain myself. The two qualities that need to be practiced, remembered and lived are gentleness with weakness and strength with gentleness.
Salvation is God’s affirmation that He loves all equally. It is his primary motivation for creation and for sending His Son, Jesus Christ to the World to save it. Throughout their lives, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and so many of the apostles and disciples showed and lived the strength and love of gentleness. That is our challenge this week of Advent.
Gentleness is not that difficult. When in doubt, think of Moses as he was fleeing from the Egyptians and came to the Red Sea and wondered what to do. God said do not worry NOW, for I will part the sea and you and your people will cross over safely but not the Egyptians.
Moses replied, “Well, once we are across, what will be the problem?”
God responded, “Then you will have to file an environmental impact statement on the other side!”