Purging & Purifying Ourselves for the Lord’s Coming
Readings: (1st: Ish 11 1-10; Ps: 71, 1-2.7-8.12-13; 2nd: Rom 15, 4-9; Gos: Mtt 3, 1-12)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
After Peter’s preaching and testimony about Jesus on Pentecost day, his message provoked the congregation to ask: “Brothers what then shall we do?” Peter responded: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2, 14-38). There is no other time better than this season of Advent when we, must ask this same question: “What shall we do to be worthy of the Lord’s coming? In response to this question the Church says to us on this second Sunday of Advent: “Repent for the kingdom of God is Close at hand”, purge and purify yourselves for the Lord’s coming! Repentance and reconciliation are necessary because, they are very important aspects of our preparation for encountering Christ. This is considering the word of the scriptures which says: “Make effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12, 14). One of the simplest ways that leads to this holiness is REPENTANCE from past sins and of course a firm resolve to remain pure as Christ taught us in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Mtt 5, 8). In other words, one condition for seeing the Lord at the end of Advent is that we must repent by purging and purifying ourselves of all that will be stumbling block for our encounter with him.
Many years ago, there lived a great and holy teacher called Rabbi Saadiah. He had hundreds of pupils, and all of them had a great thirst to learn. One winter morning, two of his pupils who happened to be walking in the mountains, while approaching its summit, saw to their great surprise, their master sitting on the snow covered ground, weeping, praying and engaging in other acts of penitence. This beat their imagination and they wondered: “What could such a perfectly righteous person as their teacher possibly need to repent of? Could he have committed some sins, God forbid? They hurriedly departed from that place. Later that day, they asked their teacher what the scene they witnessed was all about. “I do that every day,” he said to them. “Every day I repent and plead with God to forgive my shortcomings and failings in my service of Him.” “Of what failings do you speak?” They asked him. Then the Rabbi told them this story: “One day an old inn keeper received and served me so well without realizing who I was. When I left the next morning someone told him: ‘That was Rabbi Saadiah.’ Immediately, he came after and in search of me. When he caught up with me, he jumped from his carriage and fell at my feet, weeping: ‘Please forgive me! Please forgive me!! I did not know that it was you!’ I made him stand up, and then said to him: But my dear friend, you treated me very well, you were very kind and hospitable. Why are you so sorry? You have nothing to apologize for. ‘No, no, Rabbi,’ he replied. ‘If I had known you were the one, I would have served you in a completely different manner!’ Suddenly I realized that this man was teaching me a very important lesson in the service of God. I thanked and blessed him, and returned home.” “Since then” the Rabbi concluded, “every evening when I say the prayer before sleeping, I go over in my mind how I served God that day. Then I think of that old innkeeper, and say to myself, Oh! If I had known about God in the beginning of the day the way I know him now, I would have served Him in a completely different manner! And that is what I was repenting for this morning.” This is what we must do every day this season of Advent and beyond. Nothing must be taken for granted if we must be ready to welcome Jesus when he comes. This is why we are warned: “If anyone thinks he stands let him take heed least he falls. There is something we need to repent of this season as a way of making the paths straight and smooth for the coming of Jesus Christ!
In the first reading of today, Isaiah prophesied of the Lord’s coming. Remarkable about this prophesy is the manner in which He will come: “Integrity is the loin round his waist, faithfulness the belt about his waist…His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless; his sentence brings death to the wicked” Therefore only those who themselves possess integrity shall be acquitted. This reading thus invites us all to look inward and see if there be any thing that will make the Lord strike us ruthlessly when he comes. We must turn away from these and prepare to meet him. If we mend our ways and meet him in good standing then we shall enjoy his reign of peace and justice. In the second reading, Paul reminds us of the salvific power of Christ and equally tells us how best to conduct ourselves especially during this period of Advent. He says: “Follow the example of Christ so that… you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Restraining from hurting others, developing a charitable and good spirit towards others is very important this season of Advent. Paul did not stop at this. He further explains that to follow the example of Christ this season means: “…for you to treat each other in the same friendly way that Christ treated you.”
In today’s Gospel John warns us against the sin of presumption. He put it thus: “Do not presume and tell yourselves that we have Abraham for our father.” In other words, we must avoid the temptation that all is well, we are already prepared, my brother is a pastor, reverend father, bishop, cardinal or even Pope, and the likes of such deceitful self confidence. These will not count in any way for us. The only thing that will count is our state of holiness and purity of heart when Jesus comes. Of course, presumption will breed procrastination which will consequently, expose us to the danger of damnation. We are therefore called to examine and re-examine our ways and like Job, offer daily sacrifice for our sins of omission and commission (Job 1, 5). Also like Rabbi Saadiah, we must say and do: “Every day I repent and plead with God to forgive my shortcomings and failings in my service of Him” and “Oh! If I had known about God in the beginning of the day the way Him I know now, I would have served Him in a completely different manner!”
The core message of this second Sunday of Advent therefore is that we must rid ourselves of everything that will present a stumbling block to being with Christ when he comes. Hence, we are encouraged to retrace our steps and make amend for the wrongs we have done. This season we must expressly take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the purification of our souls. It is a time of making and suing for peace with all people. It is a time of repenting of the wrongs we have done them. It is a season of knocking down all the unnecessary mountains, hills and mounds; filling all the valleys, gullies and potholes in our lives that would present themselves as obstacle to us from encountering Jesus this season. What are we to repent of? Lots my brethrens! We must repent for not loving ourselves enough, of the sins against our neighbours, and our Creator. We must repent for the sins against our state, nation, people and government. We must repent of the sins against our environment, other creatures of God and the entire creation. Most importantly, we must repent of our sins against charity and our lack of humility.
Finally brethrens, If we purge and purify ourselves when he comes he will sanctify and make us whole again. He comes quickly! But only those who are blameless will see him. Let us therefore ask God this season of Advent to open our hearts in welcome, and so remove everything that will hinder us from receiving our Lord with joy, so that we may share in his wisdom and thus become one with him when he finally comes in his glory.
Peace be with you all!