Saturday, December 11, 2010

Come and Restore All Things

December 11, 2010
Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

By Phil Russell

You were taken aloft in a whirlwind, in a chariot with fiery horses. You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to reestablish the tribes of Jacob.
Sirach 48:9-10

Turn again, LORD of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Attend to this vine, the shoot your right hand has planted. Psalm 80:15-16

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things.” Matthew 17:9a,11

In preparing for an Advent Reflection series for our Adult Enrichment at my parish, I was blessed to share some good time with Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Even more blessed was I at the working of the Holy Spirit with Him. We worked often very early in the morning, often at 4 or 5 AM -- a beautiful time to go out with the Good Shepherd. I learned so much about the sheep of His Pasture. I learned even more about just how like a sheep am I. “We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

You see this reflection is a three part/night series, it is entitled: “A Journey to My Father's House/The Good Shepherd.” I had given the first talk like this one back in 1999 in the Liturgical Year of God the Father. I have had all these year with and away from Him. Like that one sheep I had gone off to graze in a far off place. This past June on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I got a call back. In response I said, “Yes!” to the Lord and came on back to His good pasture.

There I was with a woolly coat all full of twigs, stickers, briars and whatever else I had managed to pick up out there in that other field. But He gently, reached down and hoisted me back up on His back. As I sat up there in that position on His shoulders, I was more fully able to see and to feel where those Blessed shoulders had once carried that Cross to Calvary. The view was breathtaking.

You see I had been hurt out there and I had become “Downcast.” I learned that a sheep is unable to get back up by itself from that position. If left too long, the blood drains from their extremities and the cavity fills up with gasses. In the heat of summer, a sheep can die in hours. In cooler weather, the sheep can last days. I don't exactly know the number of days that this sheep lay downcast, only that it was in His good timing that the Good Shepherd came out to rescue me.

He did not snuff out this smoldering wick, nor did He bruise this broken reed. He came out to that far off place and spoke gently to my soul. He rubbed my legs. He rubbed gently along my side and waited until I was strong enough to be lifted back up. Then He placed me on His Holy shoulders. Almost too over whelming to comprehend, I just rode on His back.

I thought how just like that shepherd boy, now King, David was visited by the Prophet Nathan, who spoke to him, about his sin in the taking of another's wife and having the innocent man set up to be killed in battle. David repented and confessed his sin to the Lord. He sang out that beautiful song of lament that is the 51 Psalm.

In my study, I learned the importance of response. I learned the importance of responding to the Good Shepherd with a heartfelt “YES!” I learned the importance of confessing my sin and to be healed by Grace and then to move on. In this new life-study, I have learned that I must stay close to Him. This is the season of HOPE, it is Advent. In my study, I learned that the Twenty-Third Psalm is an image of the whole cycle of a year. It is a year spent in the green pastures and restful waters of springtime. It is a year spent being led through the valley, even in the shadow of death. I learned at the side of the Shepherd that the Rod and the Staff that comfort me are in fact Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is in fact the Father, my “ABBA” who leads me with ROD (JESUS) and STAFF (the Holy Spirit). It is my “Abba” who COMFORTS me! “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Turn to me.” (Isaiah 51:12)

I must follow Him up to the high range, the table-land in summer. It is there where He prepares me a table, even in the presence of my enemies. He anoints my head. And my cup does, overflow. His goodness and His mercy have followed me. I must dwell in His House, back down on His ranch, now that we have moved back to yet another winter season. “Turn, Turn, Turn... to everything there is a Season and a time and a purpose to everything under Heaven.” Dwelling in Him is Advent!

(You can participate in the third and final session of this Advent Reflection series led by Cursillista Phil Russell on Thursday night, December 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapel at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. Take a deeper look at what it means to be a sheep of his flock. You will never look at the shepherd in your Nativity scene the same way ever again!)