From the Bishops Advent is time to prepare for future full of hope

John the Baptist plays a prominent role in our Advent Scriptures. As we await the coming of Jesus in glory, it makes sense to listen to the one who called God's people to repent and to prepare to recognize and welcome the Lord as his coming among us as man was revealed.

While John realized the importance of his ministry - he was willing to die in fulfilling it - he always saw his own fulfillment in relation to Jesus. The coming of Jesus, his saving ministry, was the focus and the grounding of all that John said and accomplished.

To look beyond oneself to Jesus is the challenge of Advent. Facing this challenge is no less difficult for us now than it was for those who were prepared by John to recognize Jesus so many centuries ago. Like our ancestors of long ago, we face serious challenges and we need to make serious plans for the future. Since we most often plan for a future that is too small, the challenges on which we focus tend not to be the most important. This Advent, Jesus comes to be with us in our challenges and to offer us a rich future beyond anything we can achieve or even imagine.

The Scripture readings for the Third Sunday of Advent all urge us to prepare for the future that God wants to provide for us, with Jesus as its king. Our hope for a glorious future with the Lord is strengthened by a prayerful remembrance of what God has done in the past. In particular, as Christmas approaches, we remember how the only-begotten Son of God came among us as a full member of the human family. Jesus accepted the burdens, challenges and temptations of this life, even suffering death, always open to the glorious future that was assured by obedience to the will of his heavenly Father.

As Jesus shares our burdens, joys and temptations these Advent days, he invites us to enter more fully into obedience with him, so that we will not settle for anything less than a future in his kingdom. The scriptural voices we hear this Sunday, Isaiah, St. Paul and John the Baptist, all knew that they must first be obedient to the will of God before offering true hope to God's people. Their hope for future generations, for us, can be summed up in the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians: "May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it."

We are not yet perfectly holy or blameless. God wishes to make us so in Christ, but not without our cooperation. During the remaining days of Advent, every parish will offer opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation. This is an essential way for Catholics to prepare for the rich future God has planned for us in Jesus Christ. Here we acknowledge our disobedience, in which we have shaped for ourselves a limited future. And a limited future is really nothing to hope for. Here our disobedience is healed by the obedient sacrifice of Jesus. As we confess our sins and accept forgiveness, we make, at least implicitly, a deep Advent act of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

While you are thinking about it, find in your parish bulletin the times for the sacrament of reconciliation. Take out your personal calendar and set a date to meet the Lord in this powerful sacrament. Don't let your plans for Christmas be too small. Focus on the Savior. Let him save you and give you a future full of hope.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.