Monday, December 12, 2016

True Conversion (2nd Sunday of Advent A)

Jesus, I trust in you!
St. John the Baptist

Jerusalem, all Judea, and the entire region around the Jordan were going out to John the Baptist and were being baptized by him…as they acknowledge their sins. John was so popular that it seemed the fashionable thing at that time for people to have themselves baptized by him at the Jordan. Thus, the Pharisees and Sadducees jumped into the bandwagon by coming for John’s baptism. But John was not impressed by this religious charade. He called them “brood of vipers!” Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? This became the occasion for him to speak of the Messiah as the one who is mightier than him for he shall baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John did not have an image of the coming Messiah as a lovely little child sleeping on a manger. Rather, this Messiah is one whose “ax lies at the root of the tree”, one who will cut down every tree that does not bear fruit. The Messiah of whom John spoke carries a winnowing fan in his hand to separate chaff from wheat, the empty ones from the fruitful ones. The wheat shall be stored into his barn but the chaff shall be burned with unquenchable fire. Sounds harsh, isn’t it? And yet this theme of judgment continues last Sunday’s theme of the coming of the Son of Man who will judge the living and the dead. And mind you, the Lord will judge rightly: “Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips, he slay the wicked.”

Nothing can be hidden from him for he is the Truth. He reads the hidden secrets of the human heart. Therefore, our repentance must be sincere. Pretending to repent is useless. The Lord knows if our contrition is genuine. He expects us to “produce good fruits as evidence of repentance.” A “token repentance” does not impress him. Conversion must be complete. 

There are 3 elements of conversion: Contrition, confession, and satisfaction or penance. “Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” (CCC 1451) Perhaps we should ask ourselves: do I feel sorrow for my sins? Do I detest my sins? Am I resolved not to commit these again? 

If we are sorry for our sins, we must confess them. Through “confession (or disclosure) of sins…(we) look squarely at the sins we are guilty of, we take responsibility for them, and thereby open ourselves to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.” (CCC 1455) It is important that we take full responsibility for what we have done. If we keep passing the blame on others, we are not truly repentant. 

Together with contrition and confession, we must do “something more to make amends for the sin: we must make satisfaction for or expiate our sins. This satisfaction is called ‘penance.’” (CCC, 1459) There should be a firm resolution not to sin. This is done by a firm will to avoid the occasions that bring about that sin. There can be no repentance without reparation. There can be no repentance without a firm resolution to change our lifestyle.

It is by real conversion that we shall escape the wrath to come. And because the Kingdom of God is at hand, we must repent now and not later. Only by sincerely repenting of our sins shall we glorify God for his mercy.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!   

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