John the Baptist was angry because people were not behaving themselves. He wanted folks to prepare for the coming of the Messiah but their priorities were somewhere else. During the Advent season Santa Claus gets mentioned more often than Jesus Christ.
Nothing wrong with Santa Claus, Christmas trees and gifts, as long as we do not forget about Jesus Christ. Christmas is His birthday. Jesus wants to be the center of our life. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us one of the best ways to prepare. The need to be forgiven for our sins is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Leviticus 16, the Israelites picked a goat and confessed all the sins of the community to the goat and then sent it off into the wilderness to die. End of the goat, end of the sins and everybody felt a lot better. Thus the name scapegoat came to be—a term used today when we blame someone for our faults. A popular practice is to come to confess the sins of others, especially a spouse. That’s not the true purpose of reconciliation. “I have the worse husband in the world. I’m not afraid of the devil, one man said, I’m married to his sister. How can I love my neighbor, when I want to kill him!” Confessing the sins of others is good therapy, but does nothing for repentance. Repentance is a necessary element towards healing. A little boy said, “Yes, I hit my sister, but she deserved it.” “Are you sorry that you hit her?” “No, I’m sorry I got caught.” Most children are on the level of innocence. Yet, many negative practices transfer into adulthood. Perhaps we do not hit each other physically, but verbal violence happens regularly. We have the potential to destroy someone’s reputation by gossiping. Our tongue was given to speak God’s praises but we can also tell lies, make fun of people, say bad words.
Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us the opportunity to be washed clean. A feeling of freedom comes over us when we can leave all the mess in the confessional. There are scrupulous folks who want to make sure that they mention every sin they have committed since their last confession. That’s almost next to impossible. But once in awhile out comes the folded piece of paper with the list—so that nothing is forgotten. (I say, “you know who has a copy of that list? Not God, because God has already forgiven you. The devil has a copy and uses our sins to bring us down—rubs them in our nose with feeling of guilt.”)
The Sacrament obviously does not depend upon our memory but on God’s mercy. We want to get all the stuff out, but we don’t need to go into details. Attitude, an open heart, a repentant spirit needs to be our priority. After all, what we say is for us, not for God. To speak what weighs heavily on our mind frees us of the burden. Once we speak our faults, the sin looses power over our soul. Then we want to hear what the Lord has to say to us through the mouth of the priest. The basic words at the end of the prayer of absolution: “I absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Notice the priest doesn’t say, “I forgive you.” The priest acts in the person of Christ and absolves in the name of the Father—not by any other power, but by the power of God. By the way, our Community of Our Lady Of Sorrows should be congratulated for having so few sins. There are very few people who come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As was mentioned, perhaps people go to other parishes. However, given our population, we have relatively few sins committed in this parish. We should get an award. “One of these days I’m going to go tell the priest my confession, but I need an hour.” Make an appointment. Doesn’t have to be the secluded times.
Come to the Sacrament. Free listening. Free absolution. Clean start. Miracles can happen during the Advent season. Jesus is here and will come again. But the best home where He wants to be received is in our heart. Fear will not help us to be free.