Summary: During Advent ask God to reveal to your hidden sins.
And What I have Failed to Do
Advent and Lent are the penitential seasons of the church. The faithful make an effort each year to eliminate those sins of which they are regretfully aware. This year I would suggest in addition we ask God to reveal our hidden sins, those of which we are not aware or fully aware, our sins of omission.
We may maintain a pro-life position, for example, but not follow through on our belief. I was reminded recently in a blood cancer support group member that those who claim to be pro-life need to be mindful of sins of omission which might include failing to help address the difficulties that people are experiencing in living out their faith. There are, for example, unexpected pregnancies (about 50 per cent of all pregnancies in this country) that are challenging to both the baby and the parents. Help is needed, and a suitable place from which it can come is from pro-life people.
Saying one is pro-life isn’t enough. What can we do to encourage parents and provide aid for children who escape the abortionist’s scalpel? There is a child in India, I am told by a woman in my blood-disease support group, a baby who was saved by a pro-life organization, In Touch, but who needs $4,000 for a heart operation. They are part of "In Touch Mission International, P. O. Box 7575, Tempe, AZ 85281, where contributions could be sent, E-mail for more information is at firstname.lastname@example.org It would require only modest contributions from several people. Do we pro-lifers have enough heart to donate for the needed medical aid?
Be sure to specify that your contribution will go to the girl from India, Sonia, who was saved from abortion, or for another child in a similar situation if the original funding goal is reached.. And keep thinking about other ways to help other children whose lives have been saved by pro-life people, ultimately by the parents themselves or often by the heroic mother herself. That’s one way to come to grips with basic sins of omission, failing to follow through on our professed beliefs.
In today’s gospel reading we find John the Baptist urging the people of Jerusalem to repent, people who had come to see him in great numbers.
I have at times wondered how an ordinary person might have reacted to the news of the coming of Jesus, first as a great prophet and then as the Son of God. I doubt that many would have made a trip to the desert to see John the Baptist had he not had a compelling personality, if not an appealing appearance.. They probably would have been curious about him from the report of others, but thought him to be perhaps mentally unstable or a social outcast, living off the land and dressing as he did with wild animal skins. Yet Jesus calls him the greatest of people. Those who had seen John must have been enthusiastic about him, however, passing on the good news of a great prophet with the greatest of news..
When the people of Jerusalem took advantage of the opportunity to see Jesus or even John the Baptist they quite likely would have been very impressed once they got beyond physical appearance. Not only did they have the words of salvation, words we can read today in scripture, but back then they also had the non-verbal aspects of communication that we depend on so much in deciding whom and what to believe. It’s not only what is said but moreover how it is said that determines what we believe to be true. When there is a disparity between what is said and how it is said we tend not to believe, and vice versa. John must have sounded quite sincere and convincing despite his unusual appearance and way of dressing.
John preached a baptism of repentance from the idolizing of anything or anyone other than God. Wealth, status, or seeing to our own needs exclusively can take the place of the One who must come first, the one who loved us first and created us. The good news about repentance is that Jesus through his Holy Spirit shows us where we are going wrong. He convinced the Woman at the Well, for example, that she was seeking happiness in all the wrong places, in human relationships, in the five husbands she had lived with and in a sixth that was not her husband. What she sought to sustain her life was water (or relationships) that left her thirsty or spiritually longing instead of fulfilled through God’s everlasting grace. At first she thought that believing in Jesus would free her from the chore of seeking water from a well, a rather self-centered benefit. Then she wants to learn about where to worship, on Mt. Gerazim or in Jerusalem. Finally she realizes that what is most important is worshipping God in spirit and in truth- a big shift in values. And Jesus declares himself later before Pilate to be Truth.