The “cloak of misery.”The Word of God orders us to take it off.
What exactly is this dark and dingy cloak? And which exactly are the crooked and rough ways which we must straighten and smooth?
Maybe the prophet means the robe of a shallow, scattershot, and discombobulated life. A life without a fundamental commitment to give it meaning.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council considered many of the problems of our age. They identified one of them like this:
Many of our contemporaries never get to the point of raising questions about God, since they seem to experience no religious stirrings, nor do they see why they should trouble themselves about religion. (Gaudium et Spes 19)
Never get to the point of raising questions about God? Can we live a consistent life, a steady life, a unified life, without raising questions about God? Can we really even know ourselves at all without religion? Without genuine, faithful religious practice? Regular practice based on solid foundations and not just emotions and sentiments, or my own self-interested preferences?
If we want to get the robe of distraction and dissipation off our backs, don’t we need to seek the truth, courageously and constantly? How else can we escape the trap of hypocrisy and self-contradiction?
I could never bear to think of myself as anything other than a Christian gentleman. But do the holy angels above see me thinking and speaking, dreaming and reflecting, like a Christian gentleman at all times? Do they see me driving like a Christian gentleman, frequenting malls and shops and grocery stores like a Christian gentleman, passing my precious leisure time like a Christian gentleman?
What about the rough ways that need straightening? The paths inside ourselves that pitch and bow and jigger-jagger all over the place? Aren’t the rough ways in question really my own desires?
Aren’t my moods more unpredictable than hurricane-season weather? All I want is peace and quiet! Now I’m bored. Dying for a good meal…Now I feel bloated like a beluga whale. Now I’m itching to get out and run. Now I’m jonesing for the couch and a nap.
In spite of this entire mess that we ourselves are, the prophets, amazingly, propose: We can have genuinely unified lives. We can actually be in-charge; we can govern ourselves according to the fundamental truth of who we are; we can greet every situation with calm self-assurance, ready to act consistently.
How? How do I put on the clothes of justice and the mitre of interior peace? How do I straighten my heart out into a single, holy highway heading towards the one thing that will really, truly make me happy?
Let’s buck the contemporary trend. Let’s raise questions about God. Let’s trouble ourselves on this subject.
Does it make any sense for me to let a single day go by without being sure that I know Who God is and what His commandments are? If I say God is such-and-such a way and has such-and-such commandments, and someone else says something different, can I just let that go and not really care about who is right? Does everyone get to have their own god? Could I really believe in a god that only has to do with me, and not everyone else, too? If I firmly believe that Almighty God made the heavens and the earth and guides all things toward the goal, don’t I need to get as close as I possibly can to the bottom of these questions?
And can I count on myself to know everything? Don’t I need a teacher? Isn’t it possible that someone in this world can speak, whom God actually appointed, with authority to teach me things about religion that I don’t know?
And doesn’t it matter one way or the other what I do? If I do things I shouldn’t, or fail to do the things I should, don’t I owe an apology to God and His representative on earth?
To put it all in a nutshell: How can I unify my life in the truth? How can I put on the garment of light and straighten my path?
Actually, it’s not complicated. No need to re-invent the wheel here. What we need is regular, reasonable interaction with the Incarnate Word of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He Himself devised a method and instituted the necessary sacraments. He trained His Apostles, and our forefathers have handed the whole business down to us, in spite of all the ravages of history that have intervened in the meantime. The method is the Catholic religion.
If I think I can wake up on Christmas morning the man the Lord wants me to be without going to Confession between now and then, then I am living in a dream world. If I think I will be able to celebrate Christmas in peace, as the interiorly unified Christian gentleman I aspire to be, without praying hard between now and then, I am out of my mind.
Let’s seek the truth together and straighten ourselves out by the diligent and faithful practice of the religion established by God.