As has been our tradition for years, decorating for Christmas in our house begins just after Thanksgiving. After taking down and packing the Fall and Thanksgiving decorations, we move some furniture around to make room for the Christmas tree. The rest of the day is spent putting up and decorating the tree and the rest of the house. When we finish, we sit down to enjoy the newly decorated tree and think to ourselves, “our home is prepared for Christmas.” Our Gospel today teaches about a different kind of preparation.
While his followers are being baptized, John the Baptist is teaching them (and us) to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). For John, repentance does not only mean acknowledging our sinfulness and whatever it is that keeps us away from God. It also means a willingness to live our lives in a new and different way. John scolds the local religious leaders who come out to be baptized for the sake of appearing repentant but are not willing to demonstrate their repentance by their actions.
When we hurt someone we love, we feel sorrow for having caused the hurt and if we truly love the other, we will experience a desire to right the wrong and restore our relationship with the one we hurt. But, if we don’t confront the root of what caused us to hurt, we are likely to repeat the hurt. A lasting change requires a conversion of heart.
In our relationship with God, the sacrament of reconciliation provides us the opportunity to encounter our loving God in a deep and personal way. In the sacrament, we acknowledge those times when we have fallen short and express our desire to do things differently.
If we can take that incredible moment of grace and really work on that constant relationship and conversation with Jesus, He will guide you toward being a more selfless, kind, tolerant, and centered soul. If we allow this time of Advent to truly prepare for Christ’s birth into our heart and world, we will experience the love of God in a new and transformative way.
As we near the celebration of Christmas and the coming of our LORD into our world, we can prepare by examining how we treat each other and making a genuine effort to remove that which prevents us from being disciples of Jesus. When we can do this, then we can say that we’ve prepared our hearts for Christmas.
Deacon Joe Torti