Advent, 2nd Sunday - Homily
In the past two weeks, I have had two tremendous priestly experiences. I have gone to two local high schools – one an all-boys school and the other is all-girls – to hear Confessions. At each place, it was about two straight hours of non-stop Confessions with the students choosing to come on their own – it was during the lunch hours. As you know, teens are dealing with so much serious stuff – they get so much pressure from so many sides. To hear them discuss this serious stuff, and show a real desire to want to do good…it was very inspiring and humbling. They are good, and want to do good. Especially if you talk to them one-on-one, you see that they really desire holiness. At least a few of them specifically said that they wanted to get away from doing the stuff that is seriously wrong, and to get back into living for God.
The idea of changing our ways, of changing our hearts, is the idea of metanoia. It is a Greek word that literally means “change of heart”. It means that we look at the things we have done wrong in our lives and truly regret these sins. It means repentance which is being sorry. This kind of change of heart and repentance usually leads to conversion where the person really tries to change his ways. He embarks on a new life with God and lives according to God’s ways. This whole process of repentance and conversion is, of course, under the heading of God’s Grace which is what moves a person to change his or her heart.
John the Baptist preached metanoia…he preached repentance. Today’s Gospel says that he “preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. As the herald of Christ, John’s mission in life was to prepare people for the coming of Christ. He did this by telling them to repent and change their lives. Just as repentance is necessary to receive forgiveness, so repentance is necessary to receive Christ. John had to tell people that Christ is coming, and that they should be ready when he comes. Repentance and an openness to conversion are the ways to prepare for Christ.
Many of us might be afraid to go deeper in our friendship with Christ because we know that we will have to change our ways. But, just like with the high school students, our hearts really want to change. God made our hearts; our hearts desire goodness, and to be good. We do want to change our ways and follow Christ, but might not know where to start. It might be too overwhelming and scary for us. Again, though, we look at the example of those teens: get specific, and start with the big stuff first, and then work our way down from there. It takes a lot of courage and humility to do this, but it is also extremely rewarding. From what I’ve heard, those teens were extremely happy when they came out of Confession.
God doesn’t just call us to change, and then leave us on our own to do it. He gives us all the help in the world to do it. When we receive the grace of the sacraments, we receive God's help. Next Tuesday night, he will offer his help to us in the Penance Service. Many of his priests will be here to offer Reconciliation. In a few minutes, He will come to us in the Eucharist. God will actually be in us, giving us strength and courage to change. It is really his Grace that moves us to change our hearts.
The call, then, is to be open to his Grace…to be open to his love…to be open to his life. While it is a demanding life, it is an awesome life! It is an awesome love! It is for his love that any of us would change so that we live for Him and others instead of living for ourselves. May we be open to his Grace this Advent, and be open to his awesome love. May we know his awesome love as we prepare to receive his Son.