Each year on the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist takes center stage, calling us to repent:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths…fill the valleys, level the mountains….straighten the winding roads and smooth the bumpy ones….”
John is sometimes called the last of the Old Testament prophets, all of whom, in their own way, pointed to the coming of the Christ. John always seems intense, and his call to repent, to change, might makes us uneasy, but let us understand—he is an agent of God’s mercy. Even in John’s harsh call to reform, we remember that God is always merciful, God is love.
Of course, this cry of mercy from the lips of John the Baptist is a response to our sin.
I remind us that sin is simply something we choose, knowing that it obstructs us from living in God’s love. At our Masses for the Immaculate Conception, we recalled the starting point of our innate tendency toward sin, the Original Sin. It’s there within us: something that draws us toward the very things that we’re told aren’t good for us, and things that we know aren’t good for us. Yet they draw us.
Some people really struggle in this, wanting to do what God asks of them, but in their weakness, have a hard time getting beyond their sin—but they try. For others, perhaps it’s fair to say, that some people don’t really care. Maybe it’s presumption of God’s mercy (“I’m not that bad: I’m not like Adolph Hitler!” or “There’s no such thing as hell anyway”), or maybe it’s pride that has convinced them that they know better than God after all.
John, and therefore the season of Advent, calls us to make ourselves ready for our Lord: make straight the paths, smooth the rough ways. In other words, take it seriously, consider what needs to change in your life, and really try to deal with it.
One of the things God has given us, in his mercy, is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through it, we can reclaim our baptismal innocence. We can start again. So, when was the last time you made a sacramental confession? For some, it’s been forever. I realize that it can be a cause for fear, but we needn’t be afraid. Jesus is waiting to unburden your heart. For some, they don’t believe in the sacrament itself. For those, I encourage you to check-out and read a short book in our parish library, Confession: Five Sentences That Will Heal Your Life, by Tom Curran.
Because until you deal with it, what’s on your heart, it’s like barnacles on the side of a ship. And as long as it’s there, it keeps your heart from being alive, and even more, from receiving grace in the various ways God desires to give it. So how are you struggling?
Is it anger or impatience? Responses that tend to be manifested at those of our households or other drivers?
Is it using God’s holy name, or the name of Jesus, as a casual expression or even a swear word?
Or do you struggle with setting a bad example for others—especially, your family—of what it means to be a Christian man or woman?
Is it that you make other things more important than time for God, such as preoccupation with self-comfort, TV, material possessions, YouTube videos or social media?
Or maybe it’s gossiping or being cranky all the time (even at church activities!)
Maybe it’s holding on to resentments.
Is it struggles with various sins of impurity, including what’s waiting for us to view on our mobile devices, our game systems, our PCs. This so called ‘adult material’ enters our homes and pollutes our hearts, distorts our understanding of God’s gift of human love and human dignity. Statistics indicate the average 11-year-old has already been exposed to it. And as for adults, I’ve seen how it undermines and harms marriages—the feelings of betrayal. (please check out the product, a filter blocker, called Covenant Eyes)
Maybe it’s our failure to trust in the truth, telling lies in order to impress others or avoid inconveniences.
Finally, though this short list is not at all exhaustive, maybe it’s receiving the Holy Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin.
Whether it’s any or all of these things, or anything else, what are the rough ways that you need to make smooth? What are the things you need to leave behind in order to experience God’s mercy—mercy manifest in the tender child to be born unto us?
Don’t let fear and pride keep you from God’s mercy.
Take home one of the white pamphlets, HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND MAKE A GOOD CONFESSION, and prayerfully prepare, then come back and reclaim your innocence, even if it’s been forever. Re-enter the life of grace and mercy, prepare the way for the Lord.