5-7 December 2014
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
Continuing our spiritual journey through Advent, the voice of the Lord comes to us today through two prophets, Isaiah and John the Baptist. Isaiah begins with the wonderful words: Comfort, give comfort to my people says your God. The role of the prophet is not to bring terrifying news of death and destruction, or to frighten people into submission, but rather to bring the good news of salvation, liberation and the hope of new life. God has taken the initiative in his plan of salvation by sending his Son Jesus Christ into the world as our Saviour. This is the good news from God, the message of comfort, that God has not forgotten mankind, but has sent his Son into the world in order to save one and all, so that our sins would be forgiven.
In order to receive the Lord and his redemption, he asks for our participation and this comes through these prophets who repeat the same call: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”. The image is a very strong one. A voice in the desert would appear to be a something quite useless if not hopeless. Who could ever be heard in the desert? And to whom would this message be addressed? To the desert sand, the scarce plant life, the odd animal that one might encounter? It is precisely in this situation of desolation that a voice from above comes to us bringing us the good news of salvation. This is a cry of all of those who believe in the power of God, who realize that God’s will must be fulfilled even if this means screaming in the desert to no one, for the voice of salvation must be announced, the message must get across, and hopefully, someone, somewhere will heed the voice and listen to it.
Part of the preparation for the Lord’s arrival entails making straight his paths. John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance. In any preparation for the arrival of God we must return to him through repentance and conversion. It is not very popular today to speak about sin and the need for confession. There is a certain opinion even amongst believers today that confession is not absolutely necessary for our spiritual lives. How wrong and deceiving this presumption is! Pope Paul VI once said that the greatest sin of our modern times is the indifference to sin. A Christian author and physician Karl Menninger wrote a book titled: “Whatever Became of Sin?” In the book he touches upon this indifferent attitude which exists in all of us to a greater or lesser degree. In our return or coming back to God, a confession must be made and this is done at three levels.
First of all, we must confess to ourselves. Before we can approach the sacrament of reconciliation, we must admit our faults and failures to ourselves and be sorry for them. This is difficult because it demands of us a great dose of humility, which hurts our pride. In admitting our sins, we must also be sorry for them. It can happen at times that some people are not sorry for what they have done. They may have offended someone terribly, stolen some item of little or great value, committed even a crime, but they justify themselves and their actions by rationalizing everything and undermining the gravity of the sin. At times we may not truly be sorry for having sinned, but we feel bad because of the consequences of our sins. We must recognize evil for what it is, condemn it and try our utmost to avoid it, simply because God loathes it and it is against his will for us, for he comes to liberate us and save us from all forms of dependency and sin.
Secondly, we must do our best to restore our relationships with others and make amends to those we may have wronged. People will sometimes admit the wrongs they have done to others without reconciling with the persons they hurt beforehand, leaving plenty of hurt and suffering between them. Our human barriers must be overcome before the divine barriers disappear. It is a humbling process, but a humiliation which leads to liberation, grace and peace.
The third and final aspect of our confession is coming before God. Some mistakenly believe that they have no need of sacramental confession if they admit their sins and ask God for pardon through prayer. They leave out going to sacramental confession because it appears superfluous to them and too humiliating. Yet Jesus left the sacrament to the Church for our well-being and salvation. The end of pride in our hearts and minds is the beginning of forgiveness and new life in God. When we say ‘I have sinned’ in confession, we will always certainly receive the Lord’s forgiveness who through the words of the priest says “I absolve you of your sins”. It is then that we can experience the strength of the Lord’s mercy, for he is as John the Baptist said mightier than I. His mercy and forgiveness are mightier and much greater than all of our sins and weaknesses put together.
As we prepare a way for the Lord, let us look inside ourselves and examine our lives before the beauty and holiness of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our best preparation for Christmas will always be a good sacramental confession. Therefore let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of humility and faith, so that we may approach our Lord with trust in his mercy and forgiveness and with a firm desire to renew ourselves and our lives according to his will. We are called to be the Isaiahs and John the Baptists of today! To be God’s prophets of joy and consolation, by inviting our brothers and sisters to faith, to a new relationship with God based upon trust and opening our hearts to his grace which can renew us and provide us with hope. And hope is renewed when God’s approaching mankind meets with that of mankind’s turning back towards God.