Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Confession, Sermon of December 5th

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A.
December 5th, 2010.
Matthew 3:1-12

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!

Advent is confession for the communion of Christmas. Advent is confession for Christmas’ communion.
What does this phrase really mean? Well, let’s be straightforward – it means that each and every person in the parish who has reached the age of reason should go to confession at least one time during the season of Advent. All of us should go to confession at least once during Advent, in order to be well prepared to receive Christ more fully this Christmas.

Advent is a sort of confession, in preparation for the communion with Christ which we must more deeply enter into at Christmas. It is for this reason that St. John the Baptist tells us, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Notice, fist John challenges us, then he gives us a word of encouragement.
First, John says, “Repent.” This is the challenge – it is the call to turn away from sin, to rid ourselves of all the worldly attachment which plague us. But then he continues, “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Here is the encouragement – this is the time of grace, this is the time for conversion, the Lord will help you, do not be discouraged.

Advent is confession for Christmas’ communion. Advent is that time to be free from those same old sins which weigh us down. Advent is the time to consider that the Lord is coming, grace is here; let us use this grace well.
In order to understand more fully how Advent is like confession and Christmas like communion, it is necessary to consider the relation between these two sacraments.

How is confession related to communion?
Obviously, confession is given as that means of healing and forgiveness so that we can enter into communion more deeply and with greater fruitfulness. Confession is a means of preparing the way of the Lord, readying our hearts for the reception Christ’s sacramental presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Sometimes, confession is necessary before communion – whenever we have committed a mortal sin, it is necessary to first go to confession before coming to receive communion; forgiveness is needed before we are prepared to enter into union with our Lord.
Here it is good to mention that intentionally skipping Mass on Sunday, without a serious reason, is a mortal sin – if we have skipped Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation, we must first receive the Lord’s forgiveness through confession before we receive him sacramentally in communion. Moreover, it must be mentioned that December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is a holy day of obligation.  If we are planning on skipping Mass this coming Wednesday (December 8th), then we cannot come to communion today – we must be honest with God, we must never receive communion when we are separated from Christ through serious sin.

However, to return to confession and communion and the relation to Advent – we must heed the call of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” What we cannot do, what would be utterly disastrous for our spiritual lives, would be to think that we really have no need of repentance. This alone will destroy our life with Christ, if we say, “Oh, I am basically a pretty good person.” No! We are sinners, and we stand in great need of a Savior!
This is what led John the Baptist to treat the Pharisees so harshly – he called them a “brood of vipers” because they considered themselves to be basically good people who didn’t really need to repent. The Pharisees thought that they really had no great need of a Savior, because they didn’t think that they were really sinners. And, it is true, if we deny our sin, then we deny our Redeemer.

This Advent we ask the Lord to purify us of this Pharisaic tendency to deny our sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is the Pharisee who says that he doesn’t really need to go to confession. It is the Pharisee who says that he really doesn’t have any sins to confess.
We, however, must know our sinfulness and our need for God’s grace. It would be good for each of us to get in the habit of making a more regular confession, since this helps us to be ever more conscious of our faults and of God’s love and mercy. Those who come to Mass every Sunday, should go to confession at least every other month. For those who attend daily Mass, we ought to confess at least once a month. These two sacraments work together – confession and communion. They are meant to be received together, and together they will bring us happily to life everlasting.