Repent this Advent Season

FrRichWebOne of the reasons that our Scriptures are so powerful is their timeliness. We are constantly reminded that words penned centuries earlier, imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, speak to us, bringing us to the scenes of Moses addressing the Chosen People, David dancing in front of the Tabernacle, and Isaiah encouraging the people. We are transported to those around Jesus as He draws His Disciples into His mission.  In Matthew’s Gospel last week, our season of Advent opens with the admonition to “Stay awake!” The Messiah that has been long awaited will come, is coming. The signs and portents are being fulfilled, and the time is now. Christ warns his Disciples, “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The Advent of my youth is no more. Family dinners with an Advent wreath in the center of the table, lit by the youngest member present, are a challenge in our world today. However, we still need to prepare our hearts and our minds for this coming. How it happens is up to us. The choices are not new; time with scripture, greater intentionality in our prayer lives, participating in the celebration of the Eucharist more often. I would offer that one of the integral pieces of our preparation is the opportunity that it presents for seeking forgiveness.

This week, Matthew’s Gospel finds John on the banks of the Jordan. Jesus’ cousin is calling all to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Repentance, as we will see in the Gospels, is an intimate moment between sinner and Savior. Forgiveness must be sought, and Christ, again and again, offers it to those who have done so. John, the last great prophet of the old covenant, the first martyr of the new, confronts his listeners. Failure to prepare, failure to repent, failure to hear will result in being “cut down and thrown into the fire.” John leaves little room to misinterpret his message. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.”

Much like John offered a number of opportunities for his listeners to be baptized and repent, so do we have opportunities to prepare ourselves through prayer, good works and repentance. Our Advent penance service takes place on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. Weekly, we have three opportunities to celebrate reconciliation: Tuesdays at  4:00 p.m., Thursdays at 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. Sacred Heart holds reconciliation on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m., and Saturdays from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. Our Lady of Lourdes holds reconciliation on Saturdays from 4-4:45 p.m.

We are faced with the same choice that faced the Scribes and Pharisees, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” The alternative is “be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The Advent of our youth is no more. However, we still need to prepare our hearts and our minds for this coming. How it happens is up to us. There are opportunities to be taken advantage of. There are choices to enter into, as individuals and as families. We have prayer, we have ministries, we have occasions to share our treasure. An integral part of our preparation comes straight from John this week, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”