My brothers and sisters,1
We are already in the second Sunday of our Advent journey, as we are accompanying our Blessed Mother Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and birth of Jesus. This is a beautiful time of year! A time of expectation and joy.
It is really a time of preparation for Christmas. Our society seems that we already celebrated Christmas but I think it helps us to understand that we are preparing ourselves for that beautiful moment when we celebrate that birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And the readings from the sacred Scriptures this morning Help us to prepare ourselves and make sure that we are getting ready to welcome Jesus into our lives.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah gives us a beautiful vision of what God wants the world to be like. The prophet tells us — there will be peace in all of creation and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
And at the center of the prophet’s glorious vision, as I’m sure that you noticed, is a Child. Isaiah promises: A little Child will guide them!
So that is what we are preparing for in this holy season. We’re getting ready to meet Jesus.
And in our Gospel reading this morning, we are introduced to the figure of St. John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare people for Jesus.
He is really an interesting character, isn’t he? He is living out in the desert by the Jordan River. His clothes are made of camel’s hair; he is wearing a big leather belt around his waist. And he only eats locusts and wild honey.
I think he would be kind of scary to meet. But the clothes he is wearing and what he is eating are meant to be symbols — they are signs that he is totally devoted to God and to doing God’s will in his life.
And John’s message is the beautiful message of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He is calling all of us to change our lives.
Prepare the way of the Lord!
Make straight his paths!
And my brothers and sisters, that’s what this holy season is all about. Advent is a time for conversion. Advent means making a new start in our personal lives.
Real conversion means really changing the way we live. That’s what the word “repent” means. To change our lives — so that we are ready to live as Jesus wants us to live.
And St. John the Baptist gives us some good advice in our Gospel today. He tells us, first of all, that we need to acknowledge our sins.
Yes, we need to accept our weaknesses, my dear brothers and sisters. We need to admit that we need God’s help. That we need his forgiveness, his love, his strength.
As you know all know, even our Holy Father Pope Francis, when they asked him to describe himself, he said very simply, “I am a sinner.”
But then he said right away, “and this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as Pope: I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”2
What beautiful example! And that is exactly what St. John the Baptist is talking about today. We need to acknowledge our sins. We need to have a spirit of penance. And we need to trust that Jesus is always patient with us. He has infinite mercy. We need to trust that God’s mercy is greater than any of our sins.
That’s why this holy season is a wonderful time to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to go back to confession. Because in the Sacrament of Penance we find that Jesus is there — waiting to forgive us. Waiting to show us his infinite mercy and give us the strength of his grace.
So that’s a good resolution during this season of Advent — to be able to prepare ourselves to receive Jesus on Christmas day.
But then St. John the Baptist also tells us that we have to produce good fruit as evidence of our repentance.
Real conversion and good deeds are a wonderful program for this Advent season, but it is demanding. It’s requires to deny ourselves and to let God act in our lives. And then believe me, we will feel a beautiful sense of spiritual freedom. We will find that we are working with God’s strength, not with our own. We will find that we are doing all of this, not for ourselves, but for the love of God and the love of others.
So let us try to think of good things that we can do during this time, going out of our way to serve other people, to help other people, to be there for other people. Some of the times it is necessary for us to be able just to listen to other people. Then we can really help them, but instead of immediately talking, it is sometimes good to be able to listen to people that we can really find the way to help them.
Then maybe in our own spiritual lives, we need to find the time to pray a little more. In our busy lives, because we all are very busy especially at this time as we prepare for Christmas there are so many things that we are supposed to do. And four weeks is not enough time to be really well prepared for what people understand what this season of holiness.
Let’s find more time for prayer. To be with our Lord. To spend time before the Blessed Sacrament.
And that’s what conversion is all about! That’s what repentance should mean for us. So this week, let’s try to keep saying the words of Jesus: Not my will but Your will be done.3
And let’s really try to live with confidence in God’s infinite mercy. Find the way to fill our life with good things, to produce good fruits in our spiritual lives as we deepen our conversion to Jesus Christ.
And finally, this week is a special week as we celebrate tomorrow the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and on December the 12th, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s a beautiful time, especially this time, to strengthen our devotion to Mary our Blessed Mother.
So let us keep praying for that this week — to have a real sense of conversion. Trusting in the mercy of God, Acknowledging our sins, and looking to fill our lives for good things. And may our Lady of Guadalupe and our Lady of the Angels, help us to grow in our repentance during this holy season and prepare the way in our hearts to receive Jesus on Christmas Day.
1. Readings (Second Sunday of Advent, Year A): Isa. 11:1-10; Ps. 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; Rom. 15:4-9; Matt. 3:1-12.
2. Interview with Jesuit publications (September 21, 2013).
3. Luke 22:42.