Today we begin the second week of Advent. John the Baptist, standing on the shoulders of the prophets like Isaiah, has “appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4). People living in Jerusalem and from the whole Judean countryside came to repent of their sins. There was an authenticity that drew the people to John. He was clear and consistent with his message and he lived a life of simplicity and totality for God that backed up what he preached.
How are we doing in our life? In what ways are we living with God, spending time in prayer, in his Word, in worship, and for God by sharing our faith through service and specific ministry? In what areas are we putting other things before God? The seasons of Advent and Lent are times of invitation to reflect and examine our consciences. God has called us, as he did John the Baptist, to prepare a way for the Lord in our hearts and minds and for others by our witness.
Discernment on how he is calling us to draw closer to him in a relationship, and how and who we can reach out to is a good daily practice. He is also inviting us to be honest and humble to acknowledge those ways in which we put others and other things before him. For each of the aspects in our lives in which we can readily echo St. Paul: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Romans 7:19), and we do so with certain actions and behavior regularly, we have the opportunity to participate in the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
A gift of mercy that is much misunderstood and woefully unused. Each sin we commit does not just affect ourselves alone, but also all of humanity and creation. A sinful act ripples out like a pebble thrown in a pond and subtly touches all around us because we are all interconnected. Conversely, when we avail ourselves to the healing of reconciliation we are forgiven, we are healed, our relationship with God and one another is strengthened instead of weakened, it too ripples out and strengthens the Church. Recall those times in your life when you were estranged from someone you cared for because of a fight or something you had done that harmed the relationship. Then you recognized the hurt you caused and were truly sorry. You approached the person and apologized and they forgave you. That anxiety, angst, and sick feeling of separation in the pit of your stomach just all evaporated in the moment of embrace. Reconciliation brought healing to the relationship.
Reconciliation is a wonderful gift that we can share with one another this Advent. To take time to be still with the intent to allow the pains and hurts that are churning under the surface to bubble up and be acknowledged. May we have the humility to admit what we have done, the part we have played in causing any hurt that has contributed to any distancing of ourselves between God and one another. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a wonderful place to start. We are not confessing to the priest, we are confessing to Jesus who then absolves us from our sin through the priest.
Hearing the words that we are forgiven and absolved is a powerful counter to those wicked accusations that will arise in our minds soon after, maybe even as soon as we kneel in the pew to pray, that our sins can’t be forgiven. We can shout back with full confidence, “Get behind me Satan!” For through the love and tender mercy of God, our loving Father, we have been forgiven. Restored in our relationship with God, we can then approach one another to seek forgiveness and the embrace of reconciliation. Life is too short to hold grudges. May we relinquish our pride and ego that imprisons us, and instead invite the Love of the Holy Spirit to reign in our hearts. Let us follow the lead of Isaiah and John this Advent and “prepare the way of the Lord!”
If you happen to be in the Jupiter area this Wednesday, December 16, priests will be available to hear confession at 9 am and we will also be having a communal penance service and personal confessions at 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Both services will be held in the main sanctuary. St. Peter Catholic Church is located at 1701 Indian Creek Parkway, Jupiter, FL 33458. If you are reading this from places afar, I am sure that you can access a parish near you this Advent. If you are not Catholic, you can still reach out to God and one another!
Photo: Pope hears a woman’s confession, photo credit – Giuseppe Cacace, AFP