|by Angela Lambert|
December 6th, 2015; Second Sunday of Advent
Gospel of Luke 3:1-6 NAB
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert:“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
John the Baptist, the last and possibly greatest of the prophets, receives the word from God to share with us regarding how to prepare for the coming of Christ – Repent. If we do not see our own sin, we do not recognize our need for a savior. In his book In the Beginning, Pope Benedict XVI makes the observation that our culture has replaced “sin” with terms like “non-standard” behavior. Moreover, personal responsibility often gets excused away by blaming anything other than the person. As a result, the task for evangelization today he concludes, is to be brave enough to talk about sin.
Don’t worry, this won’t be a throwback to fire and brimstone preaching. Recall the reason God asked for repentance – so we could receive healing and mercy. You probably know of someone who did not want to go to the doctor so he or she kept insisting they weren’t sick. Pretending to be healthy only causes their illness to worsen. Similarly, if we do not face our spiritual illnesses they grow in strength and deadliness. In The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, she relates this advice to her from Christ regarding examining our souls:
|I do not wish the soul to consider her sins, either in general or in particular, without also remembering the Blood and the broadness of my Mercy.”|
Christ also revealed to St. Faustina that His greatest pain is when a soul refuses His mercy due to a lack of faith in His love and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins so that we may turn to Christ for forgiveness and transformation. It would be false modesty and possibly even the sin of pride or despair to willfully believe that Christ cannot or will not forgive you. In the first reading for today from Baruch 5:1, God commands: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” We must mourn our sins sincerely, then we must also accept the forgiveness and joy of God.
The Catechism defines sin in this way:
|Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” Paragraph 1849|
Sin usually means putting a lower good above a higher good – the order being God, Humans, Animals, Plants, Inanimate objects. When we put objects before people, people before God, animals before people, or things before animals, we act in a “disordered” way. In modern terms, our priorities are mixed up. When examining your life consider your priorities not merely as standard or non-standard, but as faithful to God or sinful.
The Church identifies seven capital sins, or those sins that encompass most of the sins or vices we commit. They include Pride, Avarice (Greed), Gluttony (Overindulgence), Envy, Wrath (Anger), Lust, and Sloth. Reading about each of these sins can be eye-opening. Every time I teach on this subject, I find more ways they apply to me and have to go to Confession. Self-knowledge however is the first step in the spiritual life. Jesus begins the beatitudes with “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, meaning those who recognize their poverty before God and need for Him. Then He says, “Blessed are those who mourn” meaning those who in seeing their sinful state grieve over their sins. This is followed up by the promise that one day they will rejoice (just as God prophesied through Baruch). The beatitudes continue to build from there to purity of heart wherein one may see God and finally a state of peace wherein one enjoys living as God’s child. Christ urges us to have the courage and humility to examine our consciences and our lives, to endure the unpleasant feelings so as to make it to the other side where we will have joy and peace.
- Reflect on Christ’s mercy and His mercy toward you in particular.
- Read about and reflect on the seven capital sins. Here are some links to interesting reads about them:
- Read and reflect on the Beatitudes. (Matthew 5:3-12)
- Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
- Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
- Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Actively try to overcome a sin through prayer and practicing the opposite virtue.
- (for example, to oppose gluttony intentionally fast from something you like; or to oppose sloth, get up 30 minutes earlier than usual)
- Reflect on one beatitude a day.
- Extend mercy to someone in gratitude for Christ’s mercy toward you.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
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