Sunday, 8 December 2019

Confession, 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A

Isa 11:1-10; Mt 3:1-12
We’re now starting the second week of Advent, the second week of our getting ready for Christmas.
Last Sunday, the Church's liturgy focussed on WHO it is we are preparing for -by dwelling on the Second Coming.
This Sunday, the Church’s liturgy focuses us on what we need to do to PREPARE for Him to come.   The collect prayer at Mass this Thursday expressed this very beautifully when it said,
“hasten the salvation which only our sins delay” (current breviary translation).

What stops the Lord coming to me?
Nothing on HIS part -He WANTS to come.
What stops His comes, “impedes” it, is my sins.
Each time I sin I choose to let something else come into my life, something incompatible with Him.
I choose laziness, because I don’t get around to what the Lord wants me to do.
I choose irritability and impatience, because I’m focussed on MY priorities rather than those of other people.
I choose over-indulgence in food, because I value these pleasures more than they are truly worth.

Let me look at this a different way:
Christmas is about peace: 
We hail the child to be born as “the prince of peace” (Isa 9:6);
Our first reading from Isaiah poetically described the peace His definitive reign will bring:
the wolf and the lamb lying down together (Isa 11:6).
When I sin, I damage the peace and harmony that should exist in every one of my relationships:
between God and me;
between my family and me;
between my work-life and me;
and even my inner peace -I damage the harmony within myself.

The solution to this, however, is not complicated:
The solution is to turn to the very One whose coming my sins delay.
To turn to Him and seek forgiveness.
In the Gospel we heard the powerful call of St John the Baptist:
Prepare a way for the Lord”.
If we would prepare for His Christmas coming, then we need to do the very same.
And, like the people who came to St John, we need to “confess” our sins (Mt 3:6).

The sacrament of Confession is a beautiful thing, it reconciles us to God.
When we go to confession we CONTACT forgiveness -not just as words on a page.
It’s part of God’s plan to work THROUGH other people, through His Church, through His priests.
He said, “He who hears you hears me”(Lk 10:16), to His apostles, the first priests.
He said, “Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them”(Jn 20:23), to His apostles, the first priests.
And He knows that we need to HEAR those words of forgiveness, “I absolve you…”, from His living representative on earth: the priest.

Pope Francis, as I think most of you know, goes to confession every 2 weeks.
The standard advice for parishioners is to go every month:
That’s a timeframe that means we can still remember our sins;
That’s a timeframe that can help us be suitably prepared to be ready to receive Holy Communion. 
As our last Bishop (Christopher Budd, 1998 pastoral letter) put it: It’s not enough to go to confession just at Advent and Lent, we need to go regularly.

Many of you go to confession in other churches -I know because I sometimes see you there when I’m at Ringwood or the Oratory to go to confession myself.
Our newsletter lists the times of nearby confessions, and in just over a week we’ll have 4 priests here for our Advent confessions service.
Our newsletter this week contains an examination of conscience on peace (see here) and our various damaged relationships -I hope it helps prepare you for Christmas.
I urge you, especially in this holy season, to get to confession before Christmas.
“Prepare a way of the Lord”(Mt 3:3).

The examination of conscience referred to in the sermon can be viewed at:

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