BEFORE THE CROSS | Jesus is coming to break down walls

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

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The election is over. Thanksgiving is next week. Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The Scripture readings for this week are providentially arranged for this precise moment. What do they tell us? That it's time for the walls to come down.

In the first Gospel of the week, Jesus approaches Jericho — the famous Old Testament city, where the Israelites cooperated with the power of God and the walls of the city came tumbling down. In the story, a man calls upon the presence and the power of Jesus and sees the walls of his blindness come tumbling down. In the second Gospel of the week, Jesus is in Jericho and talks with Zacchaeus, who's transformed by the presence and the power of Jesus, and the walls of his sin come tumbling down. In the fourth Gospel of the week, Jesus foretells that the walls of Jerusalem will come down "because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." That "you" refers to the people of Jerusalem, who didn't recognize the presence and the power of God in the person of Jesus.

All week, the readings tell the story of walls that come down to let Jesus in, and walls that go up to keep Him out. The common theme is that the walls will come down, sooner or later. The difference is that some people welcome God's power to knock down the walls, and some people resist it.

That raises questions: What walls need to come down in our lives? And will we welcome God's power to knock them down or resist Him when he comes?

Let's consider three examples.

• Looking back on the election, did you let a wall grow up between you and anyone else? Ask God for a chance to knock down that wall and rebuild the relationship. Then, when the opportunity arises, recognize the time of your visitation: Call on God's power and presence, and let the wall come tumbling down.

• Looking ahead to Thanksgiving, have any walls grown up within your family? Ask God for a special Thanksgiving blessing: a chance to knock down that wall and rebuild family ties. Then, when God provides the opportunity, recognize the time of your visitation: Call on His presence and power, and let that wall come tumbling down.

• Looking ahead to Advent — well, Advent is a penitential season, so the question is: What are you going to give up for Advent? That's usually a question we save for Lent. But we can ask it of Advent, too. What walls have grown up in your relationship with the Lord over the past year? Those walls are going to come down sooner or later — now or when we die. Why not start working on them now? Christmas is a time of visitation, when the Lord comes into our hearts in a special way, just as He came into the world 2,000 years ago. What small thing can we give up, or what small thing can we do, to prepare our hearts to recognize the time of our visitation — to welcome his presence and power when He comes?

Both the Old and New Testaments tell us about walls coming down by an act of God — sometimes with the cooperation of the people inside and sometimes against their will. The same is true of us. Whether He comes, and when, is up to Him. What kind of reception He gets is up to us. But the walls will come down. 

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