A highway will be there, called the holy way; …it is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.
Have you ever had to prepare for journey? If so, you’ve probably done the usual things: made a packing list, arranged for the care of your pets, stopped delivery of the mail and the paper, made sure there was enough gas in the car or that you had your plane tickets. But before all that you needed to give thought to what route you would take to get to where you were going.
I’m very lucky when I travel with my wife. You see, she used to be a travel agent. So, once we decide on a final destination, I leave her to plan how we will get there, what connections we will make, what cities we will travel through. I have never been disappointed.
In the first reading Isaiah encourages us to let the Lord be our travel agent. He paints a beautiful picture of what it will be like when the Lord enters our lives to journey with us. Those areas where we feel parched, arid, or fruitless will bloom and be made whole. Where there is infirmity, there will be healing; where there is danger, there will be safety. We will be given a way through the difficult paths we have to travel. And how are we to prepare for this journey? Isaiah says we are to "Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened, be strong, fear not." By comforting and caring for each other we prepare for the journey we are all taking.
Then in the Gospel we are told the story of someone who is looking to make this journey. He is so beset with troubles that he is paralyzed. How could he even begin? His friends carried him to Jesus. When they got there they found their way blocked. Still, they persevered. They took an unconventional route, but one that they knew led to the Lord. Through this, the paralyzed man was healed: body, soul, and spirit. And then, picking up and carrying that which was a symbol of his previous infirmity, he went on his way.
May this Advent find us willing to comfort and strengthen each other for the journey we are on. May we all be willing to find a way to the Lord, even if it is unconventional, even when it seems our way is blocked. And may we all experience the healing of the Lord, body, soul, and spirit. Then we too will say, "We have seen incredible things today."
Talib Huff is a volunteer at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California.