Next month many of us will make New Year’s resolutions. Some of us, looking to drop a couple of pounds after the Christmas holidays, will attempt to commit to a routine of working out more regularly. Some of us may try to go to bed earlier so that we can wake up in the morning at the same time every day. Whatever it is, many, myself included, will make New Year’s resolutions regarding our health; I fall into the “working out more” category of new year’s resolutions. 😉
But, we just began our season of Advent, which marks the beginning of our liturgical year. How appropriate it is that the beginning of our liturgical year is our time to prepare and welcome the Christ-Child at his birth. In these weeks to come we are called to be ready for Christ to come into our lives. Specifically, this week, in the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist encourages us to Prepare the way of the Lord. In other words, make yourselves ready to receive Jesus Christ into your lives.
How do we prepare the way of the Lord? Well, I think, it looks similar to our practice of New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s resolutions tend to be those things in our lives that we want to improve on just a bit. Rather, these resolutions are changes we wish to make to promote healthy living. So in our new liturgical year, as we prepare the way of the Lord, maybe this is a chance to reflect on some spiritual resolutions we can make so that we can welcome Jesus into our lives through ongoing conversion.
John the Baptist gives us the first concrete step of preparing the way of the Lord. Repent, he says, for the kingdom of heaven, Our Lord, is at hand. John is encouraging us to take an honest look at our lives. What are the ways in which we can turn more to Christ? What are those sins that prevent me from loving our Lord and our Neighbor? How is Christ calling me to conversion?
In our Catholic faith we have a beautiful practice that encourages ongoing conversion, that is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession is offered every Saturday here at Saint Emily’s from 3:45pm until about 4:45pm. But, this Monday, December 5th at 7 p.m. there will be a number of priests available to hear confessions. Listen to these words from our Pastor, Fr. Presta, who encourages the practice of the Sacrament: “If you haven’t been to confession in a while” he says, “now is the time to do it! It’s a great way ‘to clean out the cobwebs of your soul’ and experience the healing forgiveness of the Lord in the graces offered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” Confession is that moment where we can name those areas in our lives that need to be converted. The first spiritual resolution for us to make this year can be a commitment to going to confession more; maybe once a month. Ongoing conversion can happen by naming our sins and struggles in reconciliation. This practice can enable God to bring us healing in these areas of our lives.
In the letter to the Romans, Saint Paul gives us another spiritual resolution. He says, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another. Paul is challenging us to take the words we pray in the Our Father seriously, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. The love that we experience from Christ, in the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, should inspire us to love others as Christ loves us. Just as we have been accepted by Christ, we ought to accept one another.
In my family, the Christmas season can be a challenge because our family experiences the tensions that come with divorce. So every year, my siblings and I have to discuss how we will celebrate the holidays with both parents in a way that communicates to both of them that we love them and that both of them are important to us. Divorce is never easy and every person in the family is hurt by it in some way. But, Christmas is that check for me, am I doing what I pray for? Am I forgiving others as Christ forgives me? A second resolution for all of us can be to strive to bring peace and the love Christ into relationships that need healing.
Conversion is not a one time event. In a sense, conversion will always be necessary, and the work of conversion will never be finished in our lives. But if we take the time to intentionally prepare well as John the Baptist encourages us, maybe when Christ arrives this year at Christmas we will come to know more fully just how much Christ’s love changes our lives; both in the healing of our sins and in the reconciliation of broken relationships between family and friends. As we continue our journey through advent, may this be a time where we reflect on where Christ is calling us to make a change, and therefore make a spiritual resolution. May this Eucharist we receive today, give us the strength and encouragement we need to seek ongoing conversion in our lives.