Every year when Christmas rolls around, I begin to think of parties, gifts, and people I've not seen in awhile. Mea culpa, I'm a contributing factor to our consumerist society and susceptible to worldly concerns over the spiritual realities that bless me as a Catholic and a priest. Particularly, I ought to be laser focused as the Baptist was on preparing a way for myself and others that we might more merrily meet the Lord, but this mission isn't always readily accomplished. With that in mind, I turn, although not always eagerly, unfailingly to the sacrament of confession when I have missed the mark so clearly indicated by the faith.
While working on his famous Last Supper painting, Leonardo da Vinci had an argument with a certain man. He lashed out in anger and with threatening gestures. When the argument was over, da Vinci went back to his canvas where he was working on the face of Jesus. He could not paint one stroke. At least he realized what the trouble was. He put down his brush, reconciled with the man he had offended, and calmly continued painting the face of Jesus.
Like da Vinci, I, you, we all want to put Christ into masterpiece called Christmas, because He wants and deserves to be the center of our celebrations. Like God's chosen people, we await the savior. St. John the Baptist knew what it took for the people in his time to prepare themselves, a way that works equally well for us: repent, for the Kingdom is at hand. The biggest obstacle to God's love is sin, prideful and stubborn disobedience to His will. To best prepare the way of the Lord, we must get rid of sin. We must repent.
Consider this humorous story: a couple is married for seventy years, he's 101, she's 99. They sit on the porch on a chilly autumn evening, nodding quietly on rocking chairs, enjoying the glowing sunset. Emma feels inspired by the moment and turns to her husband who is hard of hearing to say, "Zeke, I'm proud of you!" "What's that?" he replies. She raises her voice and says, "I'm proud of you!" He turns away and says, "well, Emma, I'm tired of you too."
In our relationship with God, we have difficulty hearing what He hopes and expects of us. I see my family's rift over religion has relatives not only not practicing their faith but also no longer communicating with one another because of that. In such a case, I try to remain objective and impartial, that some may at least approach me. I may be hard of hearing, too, but it doesn't pay to be hard of heart.
We pray in the Pater Noster, forgive us as we forgive the faults of others. This is no easy task! I fail to eagerly seek reconciliation when it comes to liberal friends who push their political agenda on me, so I am aware of being somewhat hypocritical. But more than anything, I want what God wants--at least I tell myself such is the case, and that nagging reminder may be my salvation after all. I am grateful to God for the sacrament of reconciliation and that He does not give up on any of us. Rather, he sent One filled with wisdom, justice, compassion and truth to lead us back, namely, His only Son. That's why, despite my many faults, I'm only too happy to point out to any and all that the best way to prepare for Christmas is to seek out and receive the Lord's sacramental pardon and peace.