John the Baptist plays a significant role in the liturgical season of Advent. He was sent by God to prepare God‟s people for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and salvation.
St. John the Baptist preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” The good news is that Jesus Christ is the kingdom of God in person, and all those who are baptized into Jesus Christ share in his merits and benefits, but only if they practice their faith by loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, above all things, and loving one‟s neighbor. Jesus calls us to follow him as his dynamic disciples, not blind followers, but student followers who deepen their knowledge of what Christ taught: you must “be made perfect just as my heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
St. John preaches in today‟s Gospel, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, „We have Abraham as our father.‟ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire… He will… gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with un-quenchable fire.” See today‟s Gospel, Mt. 3:1-12.
Advent is a time to spiritually prepare for the birthday of Jesus Christ at Christmas, but also to prepare ourselves for Jesus‟ coming in glory. We pray this truth when we recite the Nicene Creed at every Sunday Mass and Holy Day of Obligation: “He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”
Advent is a season of joyful expectation and penitence, and thus the liturgical color of the season is purple, for penance, which is always done with love and hope in God‟s mercy. There are many opportunities this Advent to go to the Sacrament of Confession, and to bring others with you, to remove those blockages of sin in order to bring healing to your relationship to God and all his people – the Church.
The bishops recommend that you celebrate Confession monthly, as a family if possible, especially in preparation for Christmas and Easter, but also for the healing and strengthening of your relationships all the year round.
To celebrate the Sacrament of Confession in a worthy manner that brings assured forgiveness, true peace and mercy to all, follow these five steps of love:
1. Examine your conscience in light of the Ten Commandments and moral teachings of Christ and his Church. (An “Examination of Conscience” can be found at our website, as well as near the main entrance of our churches).
2. Confess your sins with sorrow, especially the kind and number of mortal sins, and with the firm intention not to sin again.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states in paragraph #1456: “All mortal sins of which penitents, after diligent self-examination, are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most
secret… When Christ‟s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, „for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wounds to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”
3. Receive the penance the priest gives you with a grateful heart and a firm intention to fulfill it.
4. Prayerfully receive the priest‟s “Prayer of Absolution” done in Jesus‟ Name. This assures you that all your sins are forgiven, even those unintentionally forgotten, so that God‟s divine life of sanctifying grace can fill your soul to keep you on the path of salvation by helping you avoid mortal sin – which is defined as a sinful thought, action or inaction that is: 1) grave in nature (like breaking one of the Ten Commandments in a serious way), 2) with full knowledge that it is grave matter, and, 3) done with sufficient reflection or full consent.
5. Then, thank God and the priest, and commit to growing in God‟s healing grace by doing the prescribed penance, living a life of discipleship by praying daily, reading the Bible, service, tithing and sharing the journey of faith with others.
See the Advent/Christmas Schedule for Confession times, especially note the Communal Penance Service with multiple priests is scheduled on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Holy Trinity church.
Have a blessed Advent and Merry Christmas Season!
Fr. Thomas McCabe