At this past Saturday’s celebrated First Reconciliation for our second graders from Religious Education and our parish school there was a powerful example put forth by a few parents. They went to confession after their child received his/her First Reconciliation. These parents’ spoke loudly to our children. Parents, I want to affirm you in your role as the first teachers of the faith for your children. Faith is not only taught by what you say, but also by what you do. Remember this as you guide your children in their relationship with Jesus. When you bring your child to First Reconciliation, and you too receive the sacrament of mercy, you make a powerful statement to your child. By your action you have shown them the importance of mercy. Through this action, you are reflecting the love and mercy of God himself. I cannot stress too much the importance of this action of faith, as this sacrament is the foundation of moving forward with God.
Our gospel today opens with the words of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance is a pre-requisite to discipleship and for recognizing the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. Creating room in our lives is all about removing the sinfulness in our lives. The Lord loves a humble, contrite heart (Psalm 51:19). Just as we cannot add water to a bucket filled with soil, similarly, we must clean our hearts to allow the Lord to have space to enter and fill us. What keeps you away from one of the most powerful sacraments that Jesus gave us?
We need God’s forgiveness in the same way the apostles needed Jesus’ mercy. We are no different than the apostles were in Jesus’ time. When they should have understood what He was saying, they didn’t get it. Read the gospels and you will see their sinfulness. When they should have been courageous, they were afraid. When Jesus was telling them the importance of being a servant, they were arguing about who was the greatest. When they ought to have stood by Him, they fled in fear. When Peter had the opportunity to say he knew Jesus, he denied Him. Their weaknesses did not hamper the work the Lord accomplished through them. What keeps people away from this sacrament?—fear. Is it a fear to be honest with yourself about your failures or a fear to admit them? The Lord said often to the apostles, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” He says to you, who are afraid to come to the sacrament, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” He knows that you will leave after receiving his forgiveness with a burden lifted from your shoulders.
Repentance brings about the “good fruit” the Prophet Isaiah spoke about in our first reading: wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord, and delight in the Lord. When our pride gives way to humility, compassion is born. When our jealousy gives way to appreciation, the other can be seen as gift. When our lust gives way to purity of heart, one can see the Lord in the other. When our anger gives way to understanding, justice and peace can blossom. When our greed gives way to sharing, others can share in God’s gifts of the earth. When our envy gives way to openness, we can build bridges of understanding. When our laziness gives way to righteousness, we have created a room for Him in our lives. I invite you during this Advent to embrace the ½% Challenge—that is to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The ½% Challenge is seven minutes of your time to go to confession. It will be the best seven minutes of your Advent.
Sincerely Yours In Christ,