04 December 2010

'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!' Second Sunday of Advent Year A, 5 December 2010

St John the Baptist, El Greco, painted 1577-79

Readings (New American Bible, Philippines, USA)   

Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12)

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:

A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’

For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”


Advent is a time of preparation for the Lord’s coming: the celebration of his birth, his first coming, his return in glory at the end of time, his second coming, and his daily coming into our lives, at every moment, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.

One specific way to prepare is to repent of our sins. The most specific means for that, given us by Jesus himself through the Church, is the sacrament of confession/repentance//reconciliation. I know that there are churches where a priest is available almost around the clock and many avail of the opportunity to confess. There are far more churches where it is very difficult to find a priest available for confession. But my own experience is mixed. I do make myself available frequently – at least twice a week for an hour before Mass - in the church where I celebrate Mass on weekdays. A few may come each week, though I know that some may confess elsewhere. In the home for girls where I usually celebrate Sunday Mass they will sometimes ask me when I will be available.

Fr Francis Vernon Douglas

The Redemptorists in the Philippines have a wonderful record of availability for confession, especially on Wednesdays when the Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is celebrated in their churches. I think of three Columban priests, now deceuased, who used to spend hours in the confessional each day, St John Mary Vianney-like, in the Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro during their ‘retirement’ years: Fr Frank Chapman from Australia, Fr Jim Moynihan from New Zealand, and Fr John Meaney from Ireland. I think of another Columban from New Zealand, Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, scourged and killed by Japanese soldiers in Paete, Rizal, in July 1943, quite possibily because he would not break the seal of confession.

St James the Apostle Church, Paete, Laguna where Fr Douglas was scourged before being killed.
However, I find that even in times such as Advent and Lent people seem to be very slow to take the opportunity to confess. I sometimes ask myself if many consider themselves saints. I’m aware too that embarrassment may be a factor sometimes.

It’s not always that easy for a priest to find a confessor. This year I have been blessed with many opportunities to confess and I’m well aware of the need.

Confession is an expression of God’s tender love for us as sinners.



Biblical Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB http://www.zenit.org/article-31120?l=english

TORONTO, NOV. 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In today's Scripture readings, two of the three outstanding Advent guides (Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary) show us the proper attitude to assume as we prepare to welcome the Savior of the world.

First there is Isaiah, the prophet of consolation and singer of hope. The idyllic reading from the prophet Isaiah (11:1-10) speaks of a shoot that will sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom (v 1). This is a reference to the fact that after the Babylonian Exile only a stump of the Davidic dynasty would remain; from it would arise the new shoot, the messianic King. In verses 2-3 we have the source of the traditional names of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

An image of the idyllic harmony of paradise (vv 6-9) is a dramatic symbol of the universal peace and justice of messianic times. Throughout this season of Advent, Isaiah proclaims a true and proper Gospel for the people of Israel, enslaved in Babylon, and urges them to remain vigilant in prayer, to recognize "the signs" of the coming of the Messiah.

You may read the full text here.

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