Bottom line: The one who began the good work in you will continue to complete it right up to the day of Christ Jesus.
I'd like to lead into today's homily with one of my favorite Far Side cartoons. It goes something like this: A large dinosaur is addressing a group of smaller dinosaurs. They are standing in front of him like a football squad. The expressions on their dinosaur faces show eagerness mixed with concern. The head dinosaur says, "Things are looking bad. The climate is changing. Mammals are on the rise. And you guys have brains the size of a walnut!"
Well, I don't know how our brains compare to the dinosaurs. I know they are bigger, but we don't always use them well. And, like the dinosaurs, we do face an ultimate demise. St. Paul refers to the end of the world in today's second reading. He speaks about "the day of Christ Jesus." That is, his second coming - the day when he will wrap things up.
Some people are saying the world will end on December 21. Others think it will be sooner - this coming Wednesday, December 12. That will be the twelfth day of the twelfth month of 2012. Wednesday would be good because we will be celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Whatever happens, the important thing is not predicting the exact day, but - as we heard last Sunday - being vigilant and praying at all times. Today we get a further explanation about the meaning of prayerful vigilance.
The first thing we need to know is that salvation is not our own work. No one can save himself. Nor can you or I save anyone else. St. Paul speaks about "the one who began the good work in you." God has taken the initiative. He began the good work in us - beginning with our creation, then with a new creation: baptism.
God not only begins the good work - like clicking a download button and then waiting. No, God is active. He begins the good work, he tracks it at every step and he will see it through to the end. St. Paul is confident - not because we have a bank account of good deeds - but, as he says, "The one who began the good work...will complete it."
God will finish what he began. Do not be anxious. God is not like us. He doesn't leave things half done. Don't despair about your sins, your weaknesses, your failures. God started a good work and he will complete it. That's the first point.
The second point is about how God completes his good work in us. He does it by eliciting our cooperation. What did John preach? We heard it today. People went out the desert to hear John because he told them to repent and have their sins forgiven. The Greek word for repentance literally means, "a change of mind." Turn away from sin and turn toward God. Reprogram your thinking. You can do it. Repent.
Regarding repentance the Ignatius Study Bible says, "Because repentance is a gradual process of transformation, God is patient with sinners' struggles..." God is patient. He has all eternity. You and I, however, have deadlines. The time to repent is not December 21 or even next Wednesday. The time is now.
A person might think, "I'm going to confession next week, so I can slack off until then. I've already committed one moral sin. So what if I commit another?" Well, some of you remember the old Act of Contrition. It says, "I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to confess my sins, do penance and amend my life." A person who repents and has a firm resolve to confess their sins is already forgiven. The moment a person becomes conscious of a grave sin, he should repent and make plans for confession. Reprogram your life. If you start today, you can do it. It will be much harder - maybe insurmountable - if you wait till tomorrow.
Jesus calls us to prayerful vigilance. Repentance, conversion, change of mind - that's today's work. Once you've made the prayer of repentance, be at peace. God will do the rest. "Take off the your robe of misery," says the Prophet Baruch. The one who began the good work in you will continue to complete it right up to the day of Christ Jesus. Amen.
From Archives (Homily for Second Sunday of Advent, Year C):
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