Message: We prepare our hearts by repentance, a daily turning to God.
Today we have our second homily on Preparing Our Hearts. Preparing our hearts for Jesus. Last week we learned three main things: First, "heart" refers to our inner core - that part of us that a good person values most. Second, the purpose of our existence is to prepare our hearts. That's what God does in us every moment of every day, like a potter molding clay. Third, for God to mold the heart properly requires silence. In his book, An Advent Pilgrimage: Preparing Our Hearts for Jesus, Archbishop speaks about the "need a regular time of silence and peace." I put the full quote on the cover of bulletin.
Today, St. John the Baptist invites us to take a vital step in preparing our hearts. He appeared in the desert announcing a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." You and I have to make a choice. Am I going to acknowledge that I have done wrong? Or am I going to blame someone else or something else? The New Testament teaches that salvation depends on admitting my wrong and that I need - as John puts it - "One mightier than I." He will baptize by the Holy Spirit. We need that sacrament of baptism - and also the adult renewal of baptism, opening oneself to the power of the Holy Spirit.
That's the choice. It's sometimes expressed as "accepting Jesus as my personal savior" or "welcoming Jesus into one's heart" or "making a good confession." This choice sets the tone for a person's life.
Still, we should not see it as a once for all choice. Rather, repentance is a daily task. The fact is we human beings are either repenting, learning from our mistakes and growing - or we are falling back. Spiritually there's no standing still. C.S. Lewis observed, "every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before."* On one side is "harmony with God, and with other creatures." On the other side, "war and hatred with God" and with others. Hatred for God, says Lewis, "means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness." This sounds extreme - and it is, but you and I have seen it - and perhaps experienced it in our own person.
But let's not focus on the darkness, except as a warning.** St. Peter tells us, "God is patient not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." God often sends people like John, as well as tribulations to remind us we cannot build any permanent heaven here on earth.
I remember a friend going through a bad time. He sought the counsel of a priest known for spiritual direction. When the man finished his tale of woe, the priest said to him, "You need God." At first it seemed strange since the man had many good spiritual practices. But the man told me that he had gradually lost sight of what it is all about. We repeatedly need the reminder, "Repent. Turn back to God."
This weekend we have an important aspect of turning to God, that is, recognizing not only that we need God, but that we need other people - and they need us. Each year during Advent we have a representative of Catholic Community Service to speak about this interconnectedness.
Before turning it over to her, I would like to tell you what John said when people asked him, "What should we do?" He didn't mention lofty things like becoming a desert monk, but simple things: If you have two coats give one to the poor and if you have food, do the same.
That's an important part of what we have seen today: We prepare our hearts by repentance, a daily turning to God. Next week we will learn more about the seriousness of the choice we face -and how that choice can lead a person from gloom to joy. Archbishop Sartain, using personal examples, helps us understand what's involved in that journey: Preparing Your Heart - preparing your heart for Jesus. St. John describes him today: One mightier than I...He will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*full quote: "People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules, I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other." (Mere Christianity)
**Darkness, after all, is the absence of light.
Preparing Our Hearts Week 1:
Preparing Our Hearts Week 2:
Preparing Our Hearts Week 3:
Preparing Our Hearts Week 4:
From Archives (Second Sunday of Advent, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru