Last week the key idea was that yes, humanity needs a Savior.
This Sunday, I want to suggest that the key idea in the readings is:
“Prepare the way.”
In the first reading, a voice cries out: “prepare the way of the LORD!”
In the Gospel, we learn whose voice: John the Baptist’s.
How do we prepare the way?
Well, Saint Peter tells us in the second reading:
“the day of the Lord will come like a thief” – we cannot know when;
so “be eager to be found… at peace” with Christ.
Let me offer three concrete things you can do, starting now,
to draw closer to Christ and prepare the way for him in your life.
The first thing I want to highlight
is spending time in the Lord’s presence.
Now, someone can say, well, look, does it matter where I pray?
Why is it so important to come and be in Jesus’ very presence?
The answer, of course, is that on God’s level, it does not matter.
God sees you and knows you wherever you are.
But on the human level, of course it makes a difference.
It’s like the difference between calling someone you love,
versus going to see that person.
Sometimes a phone call is all we can do, and that’s a lot;
but it’s obviously not the same as visiting in person.
Making a habit of prayer, especially taking time
to come and pray before the Blessed Sacrament, isn’t just going to happen.
It will happen only if you make a firm resolution and concrete plan.
Now, I want to make a distinction between praying in church –
in the presence of the Eucharist –
and praying when Jesus is on the altar, in Exposition.
Both are good, both will help us,
but there is something especially powerful
about praying with Jesus, as it were, face-to-face.
As you probably know, we have exposition every Thursday,
from the 8:15 Mass in the morning till Benediction
at 8:30 in the evening. Come anytime you want, for as long as you want.
And if you feel so led, you could sign up for one of the hours.
Some are kind of thin with adorers.
If this doesn’t work for you, we also have,
on the First Friday of each month, an all-night vigil,
from the 7 pm Traditional Latin Mass,
until about 8 on Saturday morning.
The group that organized this,
which is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and to Mary’s Immaculate Heart,
will make you very welcome.
The second thing I want to emphasize is confession.
If praying before the Eucharist is “face time,”
Confession is “heart time.”
Look: I’m obviously not married,
but two things are true of every marriage.
First, that there are always hurts and times of distance.
Second, there is always a need
for open-hearted confession and forgiveness.
It is true that forgiveness doesn’t always come easily
in family situations.
But the good news is, even if your husband or wife
doesn’t forgive easily and generously, God does!
Between now and Christmas, there will be plenty of opportunities
for you to receive this sacrament.
I recently started hearing confessions on Wednesdays at 5:45 pm,
till 6:10 – that is, till just before the evening Mass.
In addition, I hear confessions for 2-1/2 hours on Thursdays
and over 2 hours on Saturdays.
There’s also a little time for confessions also on Sunday morning,
before the 9 and 11 am Masses.
On top of this, if you look in the bulletin this week and next,
you’ll see times listed for confessions and penance services
at nearby churches.
And, in the week right before Christmas,
I’ll have extra times here at St. Remy. Watch the bulletin for these.
The third thing suggestion I have is to reach out.
So we have “face time”: adoring Jesus in the Eucharist;
And “heart time”: confessing our sins in the sacrament of penance;
So this is “go time”: go make some a difference in someone’s life.
Today we have a special collection for the retirement fund
for religious sisters, brothers and priests.
This is an easy sell; people are always generous,
because we feel an almost instinctive gratitude
to those who entered religious life, taking a vow of poverty,
and who gave their lives to others.
We often say, oh, how costly that was,
you gave your whole life as a priest or religious.
When you meet a priest or a sister, do they tell you,
“Gee, what a rotten deal that was! Boy, did I get ripped off!”
No! What you see and hear is that we love what we were called to.
I love being a priest. I love being your priest.
And if you’re listening now, and wondering
if maybe you should be a sister, or a brother, or a priest,
I want to tell you, if it is for you, nothing will make you happier!
Don’t be afraid of it. At least give it a try.
And in the meantime – and for all of us in every walk of life –
there are a 100 ways, every day,
we can go make a difference for someone else.
A lot of people at this time of year are sad,
especially if they lost someone they love and the memory is sharp.
No better time to check in with friends and neighbors,
especially if they live alone and maybe are getting a little older.
And if you are feeling sad, helping others is the best thing for it.
We have a St. Vincent de Paul Society that helps people in need.
If you want to be involved, they would love to hear from you.
And they can connect you to opportunities
in Piqua, Sidney, Troy and Dayton.
Right here in Russia we have Rustic Hope,
helping women facing an unexpected pregnancy.
They would love your help.
So would the food pantry in Versailles.
Jesus is coming: at the end of time; and in this Mass.
If you want to be prepared, and draw close to him,
Fix your eyes on him. Open your heart to him.
Give him your hands for his work.