-Second Sunday of Advent-C
One Sunday, a man stood up in church and in a very loud voice said: “I have a word from God for you.” And then he shouted it again.
Very smoothly and efficiently, the ushers moved in and escorted that man to the church door.
A person reflecting on that scene said: “Isn’t it something that the clergy get up and week after week and announce that they ‘have a word from God for us,’ and most often there is very little reaction.”
It says something about the effect we allow God’s word to have on us. Sometimes God’s word is very comforting and assuring. Sometimes it is challenging and alarming. But most of the time we pay very little attention to it.
In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist stands up, claiming that he has a word from God for all of his listeners. He came “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He was the “voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight His paths.’”
And that message was not simply for John the Baptist’s audience. It is also a word from God for all of us as well.
C. S. Lewis says that Christmas really has no message for anyone who thinks that they are without sin. The true message of Christmas only comes across when we admit that we are sinners and that we need a Savior, Jesus Christ.
And so I ask you today, before the Lord whose word you hear: what are your sins? What needs to be forgiven in your life?
Tuesday, December 8th, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patronal feast of the United States, and a holy day of obligation.
It also marks the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy where we take to heart – and “take advantage of” – God’s tender offer of mercy for each one of us. And Advent is an excellent time to celebrate God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Penance.
We hear confessions every Saturday morning here at Saint Joseph from 11:00 until 12:00 noon, and every Thursday evening after the 7:00 Mass until 8:30. And on the Fourth Sunday of Advent at 7:00 in the evening, we will be having a Communal Penance Service here with individual absolution. This is a wonderful way to celebrate – and benefit from – God’s tender, personal mercy.
C. S. Lewis also says that good and evil both increase at compound interest. If we admit sin into our lives, it multiplies. We cannot afford to just look at a couple of “polite” sins in our lives – like telling white lies or being distracted in our prayers – and ignore all the rest. We need to work on everything that blocks “the way of the Lord” in our lives.
There was a woman who called the humane society about a skunk that came to live in her basement. She was told to take some bread crumbs and make a trail between her basement and the garden outside. And she did.
An hour later, she called the humane society and said: “I took your advice. Now I have two skunks in my basement!”
With God’s grace, we have to be vigilant in nurturing virtue and eliminating sin. For good and evil both increase at compound interest.
There was a woman who had ten children and lived near a construction site. One day she couldn’t find one of her kids. After quite a search, she finally found the little fellow in a barrel of roofing tar.
She reached down and picked him up. And as she looked at him, in frustration she said: “You know, it would be easier for me to have another one of you than to get you all cleaned up!”
Do you ever wonder if God feels that way about us when we sin badly and mess things up? But God never regrets that He created us. God never stops loving us. He picks us up and cleans us up with His merciful forgiveness. All we need to do is ask Him.
Saint Jerome translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin, giving us the edition called the Vulgate. At the end of his life he lived in Bethlehem. One night he had a dream in which the Christ Child appeared to him. And he said to the Christ Child: “Let me give you a gift.” And Jerome gave Him some money. And the Christ Child said: “That’s not what I want.” And then Jerome gave Him some possessions that were very dear to him. But again the Christ Child said: “That’s not what I want from you.”
Finally Jerome asked: “Then what can I give you? What do you want?” And the Christ Child said: “Give me your sins. That’s why I came.”
That is the merciful word from God that I have for you today. Give Him your sins. Repent, confess and be forgiven. “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight His paths.”