by Ken Rolheiser
Trouble tree and Advent’s good light

A plumber helped me restore an old farmhouse. After a rough first day - a flat tire, his drill quit and his truck refused to start, I drove him home in stony silence. He invited me to meet his family.

As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When he opened the door, he was wreathed in smiles, and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier. “Oh, that's my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I will have troubles on the job, but those troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and children. I just hang them up on the tree every night and ask God to take care of them.

“Then in the morning I pick them up again. Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I pick 'em up, there aren't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

Simple little actions like this plumber’s can help keep us on the path of virtue and bring us to better times. That is what Advent is all about. The Christmas tree brings color and light into our homes while reminding us of the spring to come and everlasting life with God.

Another simple, holy habit we can adopt is from how Pope Francis starts his workday. Every morning he goes to the study and prays to Our Lady. “I go to the window to look at the square, to look at the city, and there, at the end of the square, I see you. Every morning I greet you with my heart and thank you.”

If you find yourself always falling into the same bad habits, Philip Kosloski suggests, “You need to do this every morning. Make a firm resolution to commit no sin during the day. Be on your guard, especially against your most frequent and besetting sin. Consider well all the dangers and occasions of sin. Make a firm resolution to resist every temptation and ask of God the necessary grace to do so.”

In “Why light can help us stop bad habits” Kosloski gives this advice. “Darkness gives us the false idea that our sins are somehow hidden from God and others.” The bible reveals this: “Who can see me? Darkness surrounds me, walls hide me, no one sees me. Who can stop me from sinning?” (Sirach 23:18).

Why do night clubs dim their lights? What would happen if a bar turned up all the lights, full blast? Would we drink less alcohol? Often we think that God can not see us when we sin, when in fact he is there the whole time, Kosloski suggests. At night, when we are tempted to do something we know is wrong, turn on all the lights in your house!

Light puts a spotlight on us, and we can no longer hide. It has a psychological effect that God has placed within this world to remind us that he is the “the light of the world.” (John 8:12).

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:1)

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