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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Preparing to Receive the Lord

Today in Mass, Father talked about the importance of penance or confession during the Advent season. He referenced this wonderful piece that can be found on the awesome website Fish Eaters.

"Catholic apologist Jacob Michael wrote something very interesting about how secular America sees "Christmas" as beginning after Thanksgiving and ending on 25 December, and then makes "New Years Resolutions" at the beginning of the secular year:

...what Christians do (or should be doing!) during Advent and leading up to Christmas is a foreshadowing of what they will do during the days of their lives that lead up to the Second Coming; what non-Christians refuse to do during Advent, and put off until after Christmas, is precisely a foreshadowing of what they will experience at the Second Coming.

We Christians are to prepare for the Coming of Christ before He actually comes -- and that Coming is symbolized and recalled at Christmas. Non-Christians miss this season of preparation, and then scramble for six days after the 25th to make their resolutions. By then, however, it's too late -- Christmas has come and gone, Our Lord has already made His visitation to the earth, and He has found them unprepared. This is precisely what will take place at the Second Coming, when those who have put off for their entire lives the necessary preparations will suddenly be scrambling to put their affairs in order. Unfortunately, by then it will have been too late, and there will be no time for repentance. The Second Coming will be less forgiving than the Incarnation. There will be no four-week warning period before the Second Coming, like we get during Advent. There will be no six-day period of grace after the Second Coming during which to make resolutions and self-examination, like the secular world does from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1. "

Makes you rethink your resolutions doesn't it? Penance is a vital part of Advent preparation and ultimately our final judgment. Reconciliation is not just an Easter duty.
When I converted to Catholicism I wholeheartedly embraced confession. The sense of joy and relief at having my slate wiped clean is indescribable to someone who has never had the words of absolution spoke to them. But yet so many people avoid confession or do not do a through examination of conscience before stepping into the confessional. The sacrament is seen as a hassle or intrusion. In the beginning of 'The Long Loneliness' Dorothy Day describes the long lines outside the confessional EVERY Saturday. Can you imagine? Now you're lucky if your parish offers confession for more than 15 minutes before Sat. mass. Some only do confession on an appointment basis. My husband attends daily mass at the cathedral in our diocese and even after a letter of complaint to the rector, priests seldom show up for confession before daily mass even though it is expressly advertised in the bulletin. However, it is up to us to create more demand so the supply is there. Priests cannot ignore a line at their door.
Even if you're not carrying mortal sin, the grace received helps us conquer those little venial sins that keep popping up in our daily lives. And if you think you're sinless, that's an even better reason to look up in your missal a proper examination of conscience and spend some time in the box with Father. People like JPII and Blessed Mother Teresa went to confession every week. If they have stuff to confess I know I sure do.
Let us all use this Advent season to return to confession so that we may be made worthy to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, at Christmas and at the end of times.