by Katie Rich
Each morning since Advent started, I’ve woken up to an email reflection from Fr. Robert Barron (see wordonfire.org). I signed up for these emails last Lent, and found his daily reflections to be a useful guidance for the penitential season. However, maybe in part because I hadn’t done my research, and in part because I let the warm and fuzzy commercialism of Christmas have too much of a pull on my heart, I was not expecting to read the words I woke up to on the morning of December 5.
The subject line: Slashing the Roots of our Sin. In reference to the Gospel passage, Fr. Barron says: “It’s a peculiar image in some ways, an axe that cuts to the very roots, leaving no stump behind. But this is the way of Jesus, particularly during Advent. He wants a total renovation of our lives. He wants to get to the roots of our sin and dysfunction, addressing not just the symptoms, but the deep causes.”
Well. These aren’t exactly words filled with the Christmas cheer everyone is singing about. Slashing the roots of my sin? This is the way of Jesus, particularly during Advent? I tend to enjoy decorating existing trees rather than chopping them down and starting from scratch. And so, it was easy for me to ignore the email and carry on with my life. However, the more I thought about it as it seeped back into my mind throughout the following days, the more I realized Fr. Barron was right. I was merely avoiding something that I knew would be difficult.
We all have parts of our lives we are exceptionally good at sweeping under the rug. These are the areas where we know we failed, that we know we could do better but don’t want to put the effort in to fix it because it will entail ripping out sinful pieces of ourselves. But another point Fr. Barron repeatedly makes is that Jesus is a Savior. He is coming not merely as a teacher, or a prophet, but a Savior. This is what we need to come to terms with during the Advent season. This is why it is important to rip out the weeds growing in the garden of our heart by the roots, so that we lie broken and bleeding, humiliated and excruciatingly aware that we are helpless, and need to be saved. This is why we sing our Advent anthem, “oh come oh come Emmanuel.” It is our cry for help. We are begging Christ to come and save us from ourselves, because we cannot do it alone.
So even though Andy Williams may make studying more fun, remember that this is not yet the most wonderful time of the year, or at least not in the sense he meant. Remember that there are still two more weeks of Advent – two more weeks to rip out our ugly sins by the roots and lie in wait of the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The end of the semester throws a lot on our already-piled-high plate, but we need to remember that Advent is a fresh start. It is a new chance to realize what a gift Christ’s coming is, and how unimaginably fortunate we are that God loves us unconditionally.