Advent here in our Diocese, has been greatly blessed, year after year, by an abundance of Parish Missions and Communal Penance Service evenings, where there is a choice of from eight to twelve priests available to hear confessions. “Advent” which means a “coming” or “arrival”, signifies what it is we are preparing for. And that is the Second “coming” or “arrival” of our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ. For the past 2016 Christmases we have been celebrating the memory of His first coming…His humble birth in the manger at Bethlehem. Some may ponder, why the heavy emphasis on reconciliation and penance, at this otherwise joyous, celebratory, and gift-giving time of year? …after all…it’s not Lent, when we focus on the Passion and Crucifixion that Christ endured for our redemption and atonement for our sins.
Sometimes it does escape our attention that our recalling of the Birth of Christ, liturgically calls us to be mindful that what is being celebrated is appropriately designated as the “First Coming”. And, it should draw our attention to the frequency of all the New Testament exhortations to be alert, prepared, and ready for His inevitable “Second Coming.” All throughout the year we hear the Gospels at Mass that remind us, that we do not know the day or the hour for that coming. Even though we all have our ups and downs, our good days and our bad…the wisdom of that crystal clear message remains pertinent. Stay prepared! Take advantage of His Gift of Divine Mercy…attainable constantly in the Sacrament of Mercy He instituted… to keep us sinless and prepared for His arrival. Oh, yes, we can gamble…we can procrastinate…when we stumble and fall, and take our time getting cleaned back up and ready. We put off asking for that cleansing mercy (which will never be denied) and actually take the greatest risk possible on this earth…and that is…”to not be Sinless when His Second Coming takes place”.
The remedy, “Confession”, is there for us continually…until the end of time. So we can sin, be forgiven, sin, be forgiven, over and over again. Forgiveness, however, only comes when there is a genuine desire and a striving…to avoid recommitting that sin. And so our preparation for that imminent, yet unknown, “Second Coming” (at either “the end of· our life”, or at “the end of the world”) also needs to include action (good works, anti-sin behavior, acts of mercy). Christmas is but seven days away…and, yes, that has become our arbitrary target, or deadline, to have prepared our souls to joyfully celebrate our Christmas Eucharist by receiving the real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity…of our Savior… in Holy Communion.
We had a great turnout, two weeks ago, for our Penance Service and the final day of our Parish “Divine Mercy Mission.” And we have been having more and more people coming to the weekly Confessions at the Saturday Vigil Masses. However, having now been to eight different Parish Penance Services in the past two weeks, the reality is, that only a small fraction of each parish’s population have attended the penance services, and that includes ours. We now have over 710 families (which equates to well over 2,000 parishioners) and we had less than 200 confessions at our service. The same small fraction has been in attendance at the other parish services as well. You must recall the joy you feel after every confession, and that is my prayerful desire for every single parishioner.
You may call the parish office for an appointment and I also will hear confessions after every daily Mass. Also there are two more nearby Communal Parish Penance Services (with multiple priests) being held…one tonight (Sunday 12-18-16) at 6:00 PM at Sacred Heart Parish on North Blanding, and then (on Tuesday 12-20-16) at 6:00 PM at San Juan del Rio Parish, located driving South on San Jose Blvd to 1714 State Road 13, approximately 19 miles from our parish.
So even for all of us who have already adhered to the Gospel call, and gone to Confession, and prepared our selves, let us not deceive ourselves, and think that this should “do us”…at least until Easter, and the next round of Penance Services. Make being (and staying) prepared, a regular part of your life. Mark my word, you will find yourself reaping the reward of regularly being at peace, being happy, without even thinking about the fact that we are prepared. That’s the beauty of living in accord with the Gospel; in accord with the Commandments; in accord with the Beatitudes and the Church Precepts. They are all prescriptions from our Savior for happiness. Filling that God-shaped “hole” in our hearts with Jesus, with God, is the only thing that provides us that much-sought-after happiness; happiness for which we are all (every human) desirous. So as author, Matthew Kelly urges us, let us stop “Resisting Happiness”, for that is what we are inadvertently doing when we let all those worldly desires (and their hollow promises of giving us happiness) take precedence over our innate need for spiritual preparedness and peace.
Yours in quest of His freely-given mercy and peace,