The Lord's Mercy is Waiting
Dec 7, 2018
Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
Last week, the children in our PSR program made their first Confessions. I’m sure most of them were a little nervous, which is completely understandable. We can only imagine what is going through a 7-year-old’s mind when going to Confession, especially for the first time. I actually remember my first Confession. It’s probably one of the earliest things in my life I remember—I hope not because it was a traumatic, terrifying experience. It was at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church (long story about why it was at this parish). I remember the church had built a modern-style confessional, which had the option to confess your sins through a telephone receiver to the priest on the other side of the wall. I thought it was kind of strange and much preferred the dark wooden confessionals with the heavy velvet curtains. I’m ashamed to say that Confession wasn’t part of my spiritual life until really after my high school years. But, thanks be to God, it did become part of it, and now I’m not sure what I’d do without this beautiful sacrament.
The Mass readings for this Second Sunday of Advent continue the theme of preparation for the coming of Christ with St. John the Baptist, who preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
We meditate on the theme of conversion and repentance. The beautiful prophecy of Isaiah speaks of the desert and wasteland and making valleys and paths straight. We think of these places as symbols of the human heart, the place where our relationship with Jesus and one another begins—a place always in need of conversion. In our culture, we find it hard to need forgiveness to recognize our guilt and faults. We think it’s a mark on our whole “self-worth.” But our goodness is rooted in something more than our self-worth and self-confidence; it’s rooted in the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Our goodness is deep in our hearts and souls, which are the way for God’s grace to take over us. You seduced me O Lord, and I was seduced, says the Book of Kings.
Confession clears the wasteland and waters of the desert of our hearts. Our Father fills us with freedom to be united to Him in our true selves. Our hearts long for the Lord’s goodness, to accept Him fully in the sacraments. We need hearts prepared to meet Jesus and let Him take over us.
We know going to confession can be difficult. But it is such a gift to us. We are having an intimate conversation with Jesus, not the priest. By going to Him, we open our hearts to His warm and loving Sacred Heart. His love heals us. By holding in our sins of anger and guilt or whatever they may be, we not only cause distress to our hearts but also our bodies. By holding onto things, we can become anxious and lose our peace that we only find in our Lord. These feelings are never from God.
St. John the Baptist is the one prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading for this Sunday’s Mass. The voice of the one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord.
The Father comforts us through His Son. Jesus came to save us from our sins and to call us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Jesus calls us through conversion, a turning away from our selfishness and sinful attachments and back to His loving heart. Jesus does this in the Church through the sacraments of initiation and healing. The Catechism tells us Confession is the Sacrament of Conversion.
At our Baptism, we are called into union with the Church, the Body of Christ. Our hearts are washed clean from the stain of original sin. We are united with Christ and one another and called to work together in our common baptism to live out our Christian life.
The Church teaches us to go to Confession at least once a year. But, of course, the Church encourages us to participate in this beautiful sacrament as often as possible. It is said that many of the saints, including Mother Teresa and Padre Pio, went to confession every day! Maybe the Lord isn’t calling us to this practice, but let us keep watch in these weeks and keep our hearts open to the love and mercy the Lord is waiting to give us in this beautiful sacrament.
May God bless you and your families.
Fr. Aidan McDermott, O.S.B.