Chopping Down the Tree of Sin
Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job with a timber merchant, and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.
The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees. "Congratulations," the boss said. "Go on that way!"
Very motivated by the boss's words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he only could bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he only could bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.
"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked.
"Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees..."
Abraham Lincoln would often share “if you gave him eight hours to cut down a tree six of them would be spent sharpening his axe”.
In this season of Advent (Nativity Fast) we are taking the time to prepare our hearts and souls for the birth of Christ in them. A portion of this preparation should involve the sacrament of confession—to stick with the narrative—we need to sharpen our spiritual axes. This requires us to prepare ourselves properly for participation in the sacrament.
The epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians which read each year two Sundays before the Nativity offers us a simple guide to this preparation. St. Paul reminds us to “put to death those members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness” (Colossians 3:5).
He continues with “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language…and to not lie to one another”
(Colossians 3:8-9). St. Paul closes by reminding us the reason we seek to rid ourselves of sin. It is because we have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man “who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10).
Let us take a look at one final image. Many of us (if not all) have taken the time at some point in our lives—around this time of year—to head out into the wilderness in order to chopr down a tree. We take the time to prepare ourselves for this task—being sure that we have dressed warmly enough, sharpened our axe or saw and then the careful search for the tree of our choosing. Then and only then, do we begin the careful task of chopping down our tree.
What do we do when we bring that tree into our homes? Generally speaking, we do not just leave it in our living room unadorned. We decorate it. One of the most important steps in true repentance (once we have examined our conscience and confessed our sins) is to with God’s help—decorate our repentant souls—we do this by applying the virtues in the place where our former sins have dwelt.
Brothers & sisters, as we make final preparations for our Savior’s entrance in the flesh take the time to sharpen your spiritual axes, cut down he tree ofsin, and decorate your souls in the virtuous life of Jesus Christ.