Each year during the season of Advent we prepare ourselves to commemorate the birth of Christ by looking forward to his coming in glory. Although he has told us that we cannot know the day or the hour on which this will happen, he does say that we should be living in such a way that when it is time for the fulfillment of all things we will be found worthy to be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. Several of his parables, notably that of the ten virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13), that of the rich fool (Luke 12: 16-21), as well as his teaching about the vigilant and faithful servants (Luke 12: 35-40) are warnings against growing complacent and slacking off in obedience to the commandments of God.
As followers of Christ it is expected of us that we will strive to be in a “state of grace” so that the fruits of the Holy Spirit will be present in our words and actions. To make this possible our Lord gave us the sacrament of reconciliation through which we might receive forgiveness for the sins which do harm to our relationship with Christ. Although the sacrament is always available to us, there are certain times of the year when it is most opportune to make a good confession and receive absolution. Advent is one of those times and that is why, in addition to the regularly scheduled time for confessions in each parish, several churches will join together to have a special Penance Service at which a number of priests will be available to minister the sacrament of forgiveness.
Many people make such a Service a regular part of their practice of the faith, and if you have not done so I would encourage you to come to the Advent Penance Service that will be held this Wednesday, December 13th, at St. James Church for the parishes of the greater Jamestown community. Rooted in the Jewish tradition of the Day of Atonement, the coming together of the community to pray for forgiveness is our way of giving heed to Jesus’ mandate to be ready to receive him when he comes in glory. Central to the liturgy of the Atonement is the making of an “examination of conscience” whereby both the community as a whole and the individual believer as part of that community reflect on the Commandments and bid God’s mercy for the ways in which they have been broken.
That such a practice should be a regular part of our lives can be seen in the Lord’s Prayer where the petitions, “forgive us our sins” and “lead us not into temptation” are daily reminders of the necessity to place ourselves at the mercy of God. If, therefore, we find that it has been some time since we’ve been to confession, Advent presents an opportunity for a fresh start. Not only will the sacrament renew and strengthen the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism and confirmation but also make our reception of the Holy Eucharist even more fruitful so let’s not miss this opportunity for reconciliation.
Be at peace,
Father Dennis Mende