December 4, 2022: Second Sunday of Advent - Associate Pastor’s Corner
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”” – Mt. 3:7-9
One of the hardest parts of the spiritual life is the constant battle of it all. Weariness quickly sets in, and the temptation is ever present to just give up and be satisfied with the current state of your progress. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees take this approach, in slightly different ways, by reducing love of God to mechanical rule following. And so John the Baptist rebukes them for their lack of repentance and for resting on their laurels: “We have Abraham as our Father”!
We, too, can easily reduce our following of Christ to a checklist of prayers we say (or plan to say) or a list of things we try not to do or a list of good deeds we intend to practice. The importance of such good spiritual practices, however, lies more in their source: the repentance that moved our hearts toward greater love of God and love of neighbor in the first place.
We do well, then, to remember St. Benedict’s advice to his monks: “Always we begin again.” Advent is an excellent time to begin again, to renew both our repentance for our sins and also our joy at God’s mercy and grace. So how can we begin again?
First, the most concrete way to continually begin again is the beautiful sacrament of Confession. Take advantage of our upcoming Penance Services on December 20th; beforehand use a guide to examine your conscience and identify the good fruit you want to flow from your repentance.
Second, remember that even Jesus fell under the weight of the cross and Simon of Cyrene helped him to carry it (see Mt 27:32). Take advantage of the support systems around you by sharing your challenges with others and by praying together about them. Whether at the St. Dominic’s Grief Support Group, AA, or simply over coffee with a friend, know that listening and helping someone else with their challenges can also help you with yours.
Finally, remind yourself of the key elements of our faith by reading the Creed or any other summary of the faith, such as Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity. Reflect on the amazing things God has done for us to save us and on his great invitation to enter into his Divine Life, as he entered our human life two millennia ago in Bethlehem.
-Fr. Christopher Wetzel