Set Free by Fr David Byer
This week’s reflection, “Set Free” is based on Romans 7:6, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” ESV
The Apostle Paul frequently referred to the Law of Moses. He hinted over and over that it was given by God and bore witness to the Gospel. Nevertheless, Christians are not “under the law” because Jesus has given us a new way to serve Him. He fulfilled and re-explained the law and by the fresh power of the Holy Spirit He put the law on our hearts. Jesus has set us free to worship out of thanks and praise for what He has done for each of us. We walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us. We worship and serve Him by sharing His transforming love with everyone we meet. We long to be refreshed and guided by His Spirit, to serve God in all we do.
Let us cry out to the Lord with our whole hearts, truly set free to worship and serve Him in Spirit and Truth.
Let us pray: Lord our Father, each morning you welcome us as we are; give us a heart that is pure and free to receive your word, then set us free to discover in our brothers and sisters the message of life that you put in our hearts through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Preparing the Way of The Lord
4As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3:4-6 ESV)
John the Baptist was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Every year at this time, the Church asks us to hear John the Baptist’s voice and message. He speaks of a particular way – “the way of the Lord.” He does not speak about getting “things” ready as to prepare for the holidays. Instead he speaks about getting ourselves prepared and ready. While the world announces preparation for a holiday, John announces preparation for a way. John’s message interrupts the circumstances of our life. His message disrupts the patterns and habits of our life within our family, social circumstances, business transactions, consumer activities and church. Yet, John’s message is a message of hope and promise. His message is a picture of the character of our inner landscape. Each of us could name the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the mountains and valleys of our life. We could recount the crooked paths on which we got lost and the rough ways on which we stumbled and fell. With prophetic foresight, John’s words describe the possibilities of how our life and world can become different – the low places can be filled, the high places can be made low, the crooked can be made straight, and the rough can be made smooth. John’s message is also a warning that must be taken to heart. It’s a call for change.
John calls us to change our life, to become more like Jesus. Repentance is not focused on condemnation and judgment, guilt and remorse, or even saying, “I’m sorry.” We repent, not because we are bad or defective, but because we are loved. God’s love and desire for us are the basis of every call for repentance. It begins with us being honest with ourselves and examining our lives and discovering the patterns and habits of thinking, speaking, acting, relating, and living as if God were not present and active in our lives. They are patterns that blind us. These patterns and habits, or ways, distort reality, impoverish our relationships and ultimately destroy love. They are things like anger, pride, fear, greed, the need for approval, perfectionism, being judgmental, gossip, the need to control or be right, individualism, self-hatred, and despair. Insight into these patterns and habits by itself is not enough. We must also turn away from these old and dead ways and turn again to the living way. Repentance is about getting our ways turned around and heading in a Christward direction. It means a change of mind and heart. It is about turning our gaze back toward Jesus and choosing life even when the possibilities seem hopeless and empty. When we turn our gaze back to Jesus we once again reclaim our true life and we become re-rooted in Jesus’ way of love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. Choosing to follow Jesus is a way of life, a way of being where we find ourselves truly preparing the way of the Lord. May each of us make Jesus our way of life this Christmas and beyond.