Are you prepared …
The prophet Malachi says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse” (4:5-6). With these words the Old Testament ends. Then the New Testament (Mark’s Gospel) opens with John the Baptist of whom Our Lord says, “He is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14). John the Baptist is the fulfilment of the prophecy of Malachi because he was an Elijah-type figure who came to prepare the people for the great coming of the Messiah.
The Gospel tells us, “He [John] went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”, and then he quotes the prophet Isaiah, “Prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight.” The good news of the coming of Christ our Saviour is only good news if we acknowledge that we are sinners and that we need redeeming. If we say we are without sin, then we have no need of a Saviour and the whole of Christianity becomes meaningless.
“Prepare the way of the Lord.” It’s a hectic time and we’re all trying to get ready for Christmas, getting our shopping done, buying presents and maybe even going to parties if it’s allowed this year. But are we preparing ourselves spiritually? We make sure we’re on time for planes and trains, we spend years preparing for a career. So why don’t we spend more time getting ready for God, because the one thing that is certain is that one day we will stand before Him and He will judge us? Careers and promotions are not certain but death and judgement are. Are you ready? St Paul tells us the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Now is the time to prepare! Don’t be caught off guard.
If it’s more than a few months since your last Confession, now is the time to go. Make a good and thorough examination of conscience in light of the Ten Commandments and the teaching of the Church. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify some of the crooked paths in your life, to help you straighten them out and make the rough roads smooth (Isaiah 40:4). Confession banishes the darkness and reignites the light of Christ in our souls, dimmed by venial sin or completely extinguished by mortal sin. In the Sacrament, as you hear the priest say the words, “I absolve you from your sins” you will have the certainty that God has pardoned you. We cannot absolve ourselves, but unabsolved guilt always gnaws away at us until it is finally absolved in the way Christ instituted, and that is Confession. The fear of mentioning an embarrassing sin cannot compare with the relief one feels once it has been confessed.
Some people don’t like me mentioning confession as often as I do, but of this I can be certain – Our Lord wishes to meet many of you in the confessional this Advent. I hope you respond to his invitation.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC