The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way of the Lord. He baptized in water those who acknowledged their sins. I wonder who would approach John today. To approach John and benefit from the grace of his baptism required acknowledging one’s sins. This is not a popular notion today. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, points out that the sinner thinks he is a saint, while the saint knows he is a sinner. To be a saint requires knowledge of one’s sins, so that God’s grace can remove those sins. If one fails to acknowledge his sins, how can God remove them? We think that sin is an obstacle to grace. Really, it is rejecting the notion of sin, or refusing to acknowledge one’s sins, that is the obstacle to grace. Grace is always available to the sinner. But, grace cannot infuse the heart that refuses to acknowledge its sin.
Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Jesus in humility at Christmas and in glory at the Second Coming. It is a penitential season, which means it is a season set aside to acknowledge our sins and embrace the grace of God’s mercy. Churches often increase times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Advent, and saints who know they are sinners will take advantage of these times.
If we acknowledge our sins and receive God’s mercy, we can receive the Holy Spirit. We will then be temples of the Holy Spirit in this world, witnesses to all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. This is why every Mass begins with the priest exhorting us, “let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” This is followed by an Act of Contrition.
Go to Confession this Advent. Acknowledge your sins and receive God’s grace and mercy. It will well prepare you for Jesus and for the mission He has for you in transforming this world according to His will.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.