Repentance and Preparing for Christmas
User's Guide to Sunday, Dec. 4
Sunday, Dec. 4, is the Second Sunday of Advent. Thursday, Dec. 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception — America’s patronal feast and a holy day of obligation.
Dec. 6 is the feast of St. Nicholas. Our children put their shoes out before they go to bed the night before and find them filled with chocolate foil-covered coins when they wake up. To hear the story about the original St. Nicholas, check YouTube for the Apostleship of Prayer’s St. Nicholas story — which focuses on stockings instead of shoes — and the Dec. 18 print issue of the Register (see “Travel” section).
Dec. 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Gospel for the day tells the story of the Annunciation. That often causes confusion. Remind your family that it is the conception of Mary we are celebrating today, nine months before her birthday on Sept. 8. We celebrate the day that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit on March 25 — nine months before Dec. 25.
Dec. 9 is the feast of St. Juan Diego. Check YouTube for the Apostleship of Prayer video that sums up the Pauline mission of this saint in its title: “The Foolish, the Weak, the Lowly.”
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85:9-14; 2Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8
Today we hear quite a statement about quite a man:
“John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.”
This is a man who wore only camel’s hair, ate essentially whatever he could find in his desert, and stationed himself outside the holiest city on earth. Yet “all of Jerusalem,” as some translations put it, “were going out to him.”
We know that God sent his only Son “when the fullness of time had come.” We are well aware that many elements of society were not willing to receive him at that time. But today’s Gospel shows that the time was also ripe with people who were willing to try something radical.
The Church brings this very reading to us at this time of the year in order to propose that we should be willing to try something radical, too.
In order to receive the fullness of Christmas joy, we should do as John the Baptist says: Repent.
That’s easier said than done. It requires a very deep and careful look at oneself to find what one really needs. For John the Baptist, it meant rejecting life as he had lived it.
What will it mean for us?
It should mean a radical turn in our lives, too.
St. Gregory the Great described how true virtue only comes at a cost:
“There are some who wish to be humble, but without being despised; who wish to be happy with their lot, but without being needy; who wish to be chaste, without mortifying the body; to be patient without suffering. They want both to acquire virtues and to avoid the sacrifices those virtues involve. They are like soldiers who flee the battlefield and try to win the war from the comfort of the city.”
Have we fled Advent for the comfort of Christmas too soon? Christmas will definitely bring us tidings of comfort and joy. But true Christmas joy comes at a cost: the cost of our ego.
Repent! Go to confession! And then receive the Good News.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.
- December 4-17, 2011