Advent is a time of preparation. We are not only preparing for the holiday called Christmas. We are also preparing for the coming of Christ, both in the celebration of His birth and in preparation for His second coming at the end of time. In Advent, then, we try to rearrange our lives to make room for God to be more completely at the center of our lives.
Advent is not Lent. Lent is our penitential season, while Advent is more a time of preparation. Yet as my parents would find some things to throw out when preparing to set up the platform, so our preparation should help us find aspects of our lives that do not fit with our faith and our vocations to live holy lives. Thus there is a penitential aspect to this Advent season. So while we do not have the same penitential practices as in Lent, and while we do not ask one another what we are giving up for Advent, still it is important to ask God to “clean up” our lives during this season of preparation. The best way to do that, of course, is through the sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly known as Confession.
Among the opportunities for Confessions during Advent, our parish is taking part in the diocesan event, “The Light is On for You.” Twice each year, once during Advent and once during Lent, the diocese asks every parish to have Confessions on the same evening. Between 6:00 and 9:00 this Wednesday, December 13, you can go to any parish in the diocese and know that there will be a priest available for Confession. Part of the idea is that Catholics have a wide choice of confessors. Some people are comfortable going to a priest they know. Others, however, are a little nervous talking to someone they know. One good way to get over that nervousness is to go to a parish you do not belong to. On Wednesday, you know that priests are available all over the diocese.
An option such as we have on Wednesday can be particularly helpful for those who have not been to Confession in a long time. I hope we can encourage people to come back to the sacrament. Some of the best Confessions I have ever heard have been of people who have not received the sacraments in years. Some have committed serious sins, and some have just gotten out of the habit. In either case, it is an indescribable joy to see the person come to a deeper understanding of God’s merciful love.