I want to make three points in this homily.
First, I want to explain what Advent is really about –
it’s not exactly what you may think.
We often say Advent is about preparing for Christmas,
but that’s not exactly right.
After all, what do the readings we just heard
have to do with Christmas? It’s hard to see, isn’t it?
That’s because what Advent is primarily about
is preparing for eternity;
and only about Christmas,
to the extent that Christmas, too, is also about eternity.
So look again at the readings –
doesn’t that explanation make a better fit?
This is all about eternity!
The second thing I want to call to your attention
has to do with the details of that first reading.
This is such a powerful passage, it is deeply moving:
God’s people are crying out to heaven for God’s grace:
“Why do you let us wander, O LORD…
why do you let us “harden our hearts”?
They are asking for the help of God’s grace, to be converted!
It’s such a powerful prayer, isn’t it what so many of us pray?
This prayer, this prophecy by Isaiah, do you know how it is fulfilled?
In the sacraments of the Church.
Beginning in baptism, the sacraments open us up
to all the graces we need to be saved,
beginning with the grace of conversion.
But this is not a one-and-done process.
Since that’s not how we creatures of time operate –
We grow in maturity, we change, we’re up, we’re down –
So, God in his goodness, works with our frailty.
Our conversion is a process and we get constant help.
Yet this prayer is our prayer: we want to want it!
We need the Holy Spirit to give us the desire,
to have that longing for conversion and holiness and heaven
to grow in us.
And our Faith, our sacraments, help us with this.
So, I’m going to suggest:
This Advent, decide you want to begin a new habit,
of coming regularly – if not frequently – to confession.
Sometimes people will object,
“but I don’t know what to say in confession!”
What can I say? Unless your daily life is like that of Mary and Joseph,
I’m guessing there’s plenty to say.
Start there, with how you get along with your family, your spouse,
your kids, your coworkers.
There will be extra opportunities during Advent,
on top of the five hours we regularly have each week for confessions.
And I want to say something more.
The other priests and I talk frequently
about offering more times for confessions on a permanent basis.
But here’s what we priests have no clue about:
What day, what time of day, would work for you,
with your busy schedule of work, or school, or family.
So, we guess, and add hours on this evening or this morning.
Your feedback would be very helpful.
Tell me if this or that time works.
The more information I have from you on this topic, the better.
Here’s the final point to make:
God wants to forgive us! God wants to forgive us!
Why do I make that point so strongly?
Because there are many who express great fear:
Maybe I didn’t confess my sins exactly right,
maybe I need to do it all over again.
And I want to ask: Do you think God is setting you up to fail?
Do you imagine God is playing tricks on you,
as if we were all in some cosmic game show –
and if you or I answer wrong, whoops! Oh, too bad!?
Stop and think about who you really think God is.
And so I repeat: God wants to forgive us. He wants to help us.