Walking the Path to Heaven
Monday December 6, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading I (Isaiah 35:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 5:17-26)
In the first reading today, the prophet Isaiah tells us that the day is coming when the Lord is going to make a highway out in the desert; and that highway, he says, is going to be called a holy way. He tells us that it is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed are going to walk; they are going to enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy. This is the way that leads to true holiness, and ultimately the way that leads to eternal life. It is the way of the spiritual life. And so he tells us that it is in this way that fools will not be able to go astray, that you are not going to find any lions or any kind of beast of prey upon it, because it is the way that leads to God.
So if we are going to set our focus on the Lord and walk upon the way that He has laid out for us to walk, that is, to walk the way of holiness, then this is exactly where we need to be. But he tells us that it is going to be out in the desert. It is going to be in the wilderness. It is sometimes (or so it would seem) a lonely walk because there is not anything else out there. You walk out onto this path and it is easy to lose your way. If you take your eyes off of the Lord, it is easy to wander in various directions. We run into little problems along the way and we would be tempted to say, “I thought there were no lions or beasts of prey here. I thought I wasn’t going to see any jackals. Where are these things coming from?” They are not coming from the path that leads to the Lord. The devil and his minions are hanging around near the path, and, if we get off of it a little bit, they are going to be right there. They also, of course, know the things we have had trouble with in the past, and they are going to be right there to exploit our weaknesses. But they are not going to be on the path that leads to Christ. If we are willing to set our focus on Him and to walk along the path that we know He has laid out for us, then we have nothing to fear. Even if it is out in the wilderness, even if it is dark, even if it is lonely, it does not matter because we know we are on the path that leads to life and as long as we are on that path we are fine.
Now in order to walk this path there a couple of things that are going to be required. Number one, what we see in the Gospel reading today is the forgiveness of sin. We have to truly believe in the forgiveness of sin. In order to do that, it means we have to confess our sins and we have to have confidence in God, in the Lord Who says, Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Pick up your mat and walk’? He has forgiven our sins if we have confessed them. And if there is anything there that is on your soul that you are aware of that has not been confessed because you are afraid, because you are embarrassed, whatever the reason might be, then it stands between you and God – and it has to go. There is nothing to fear in the confessional. If you are going to walk a holy way, it means you have to remove all willful obstacles that are in the way. We need to be willing to get rid of those things. Bring them to Jesus so He can forgive them and they will no longer be an obstacle.
We need, then, to get rid of all the attachments to things that are not good. The Lord will help us with that if we are willing to pray for it and ask Him to show us what it is we need to do. Of course, we need to pray one-on-one with Christ in the depths of our heart everyday because that is the way we are going to know where the path leads, even where the path is out in the darkness so that we know we are continuing to walk the right way.
This is the holy way, and Our Lord tells us through Isaiah that it is the way for the redeemed to walk. That means it is not just for a few saints – it is for each and every one of us who are redeemed in Jesus Christ. But He is not going to force us to get on the path; we have to choose it. He has done everything for us. All we need to do is make the choice and put forth the effort. Everything else is going to be taken care of for us if we are willing. The path is there and the path is there for all of us. Now we need to choose to get on it and to walk the way that will lead to heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.