“There is one … coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” Untying sandal straps was no prestigious job. In the days of John the Baptist, those straps would have been especially unpleasant to deal with. Besides the usual odors that accompany sockless leather footwear, there would have been the grime and dirt from the sandy roads and paths that swirled around the people who went everywhere on foot. Taking off someone’s shoes upon their arrival was the task of the lowly servants. So when John says he’s unworthy of doing this task for the “one who is coming after me,” he is putting himself in a very humble position.
And rightly so. John realizes that the Christ–the Anointed One, the Messiah–is so far above him, so far above any of us, that we are truly unworthy of him. Indeed, the Son of God is not just the greatest of men; he is God-made-man and in his presence, we most appropriately should bow in humble homage. Yet this God chose to stoop down to our human level and walk among us. He chose to get his sandals dirty. And still today he chooses to allow us to encounter him as a friend and companion.
But as John reminds us by his example, this encounter with the Lord is not the result of our own merits or accomplishments. We are sinners who stand in need of Christ’s help. But thanks be to God, he is always willing to extend this help to us. As St. Paul says in today’s epistle, “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy.” Indeed, it is God who does the perfecting, not us by our own power. So let us approach the Lord this Advent season with a spirit of hopeful humility, trusting that God alone can make us worthy of welcoming his Son.
“Saints believe they are sinners…sinners believe they are saints”
Examination of Conscience for seniors
Get straight with God
Don’t block the Holy Spirit
Prepare for the coming of the Lord in the Eucharist
On this 3rd Sunday of Advent, the Church uses the halfway point to Christmas to rejoice. This is called “Gaudete Sunday” which comes from the Latin “to rejoice”. One of the things about which we rejoice, believe it or not, is in the Sacrament of Confession. Yes, we “rejoice heartily in the Lord” for this major means of help to “make straight the way of the Lord”.
Last week, I gave you a little insight into roughly the same line from Isaiah (“make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”) as well as a few questions to examine your conscience. The most basic way to explain what Isaiah proclaims and St. John the Baptist fulfills is to get straight with the Lord. Confession helps us to get straight with the Lord before He comes.
For many of you, it may be that you want to go to Confession, but don’t know what to confess. Typically, we prepare for the Sacrament by examining our consciences with the Ten Commandments. What may be more helpful for you is the following examination of conscience that I found online at www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer. It uses the seven deadly sins and the four cardinal virtues as a guide. I hope it helps.
Feel free to bring this into the confessional at the Penance Service on Tuesday. See you there!
May you know the peace of Christ,
Have I practiced the virtue of Chastity?
- Have I permitted myself to watch movies or daytime television shows which are not edifying, which depict sexual scenarios, or which advocate for cohabitation or homosexual relationships?
Have I practiced the virtue of Temperance?
- Have I indulged my love of sweets or snack foods, to the detriment of my health?
- Have I continued to smoke heavily, or to consume alcoholic beverages excessively?
- Have I been immoderate in any activity, such as watching too much TV?
Have I practiced the virtue of Charity?
- Have I been a “busybody,” unkind to a neighbor either by my thoughts or by my actions?
- Have I had a smile for a family member or loved one, or was I critical, hurting someone’s feelings?
Have I practiced the virtue of Diligence?
- Have I used my physical limitations as an excuse for laziness?
- Have I neglected prayer, ignored my friend’s birthday, sat around the house when I might have helped with the dishes?
- Have I exercised my responsibility to become familiar with the issues, and to vote (by absentee ballot, if necessary) for the candidates who will best protect the values I hold dear?
Have I practiced the virtue of Patience?
- Was I unkind (or downright rude) to a telephone caller, impatient with a visitor, crabby when things didn’t go just the way I wanted?
- Did I complain if someone took me to a restaurant or public place, because we had to wait for service?
- Did I criticize my doctor, my caretaker, my child, for not serving me better?
Have I practiced the virtue of Kindness?
- Was I jealous of the attention paid to someone else, wanting everyone to notice me instead?
- Did I feel angry because someone else had more money, or better health, or because my grown children did not have enough time to spend with me?
- Did I compliment someone who looked good, or did I only have harsh words to say?
Have I practiced the virtue of Humility?
- Did I accept a compliment graciously but then move on, refusing to keep the attention turned toward myself?
- Was I willing to let someone else be the center of attention?
- Did I feel grateful for the kindness of my family and others, and appreciative of my caregiver’s efforts?
- Did I believe that I had no need of confession, because I never even leave the house?
Lord, help us to recognize the times that we have failed to live a virtuous life—and grant us the grace of true contrition and a resolve to do Your will. Amen.
Christmas celebrates the Perfect Gift of God’s love in Jesus, and Advent is the time when we prepare our hearts to welcome this gift. This week, take time out of the busyness of the season to slow down and reflect on the miracle of God becoming man. After some quiet reflection, share your joy and inspiration with someone you love or on social media to spread the Perfect Gift of Jesus this Christmas season. Visit FindthePerfectGift.org to find Christmas resources and Mass times across the Archdiocese of Washington.
John the Baptist announced, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” Does preparing a way for the Lord have priority in our lives? Often we spend more time preparing paths for ourselves rather than a path for God. Advent calls us to take the focus off ourselves and put it on God. We prepare a path for God by practicing and living the virtues, being holy and devoted, patient and repentant, and attentive and humble. We are asked to bring comfort and healing to people and to show others by the way we live our lives that we have a higher calling and purpose.
“Prepare the way of the Lord!”
We hear this regularly in Advent, but what exactly does this look like? We have the familiar image of St. John the Baptist literally preparing the way of the Lord by announcing his coming. He is referenced in the Gospel today as the one prophesied by Isaiah: “Behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.” John prepared the world for the coming of the Christ. How do we prepare the way of the Lord?
God offers us several ways that we can prepare the way of the Lord through Isaiah in today’s first reading (Is 40:1-5, 9-11):
- “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Do we waste time on a regular basis? When we look at how we spend our time, do we see periods of wasteland? Advent gives us a good opportunity to do something productive during those times. Even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes spent doing spiritual reading or praying the rosary, it is an experience of being productive (like building a road) rather than wasteful.
- “Every valley shall be filled in.” In December, our rectory receives calls from people who are in different financial valleys as they approach Christmas. Most of these folks are worried about getting presents for their kids because they didn’t sign up for the Outreach Center’s toy giveaway and have nowhere else to turn. Thankfully, donors have already offered to help families in these emergency situations and get their children personalized gifts. Be generous and thoughtful in your almsgiving this Advent!
- “Every mountain and hill shall be made low.” The woman who leads our new monthly Holy Spirit Rosary told me that someone she prayed with the last time she was here received a physical healing. Her hip pain had disappeared!
If I were to ask you what mountains or hills you have in your life now, many of you would say physical pain or ailments. Whether our mountains are physical, emotional, or personal, God can make them low (or even remove them altogether)! If we are alert and awake in our faith, then we are open to the graces –sometimes miraculous – that God wants to give.
- “The rugged land shall be made a plain.” Is there a rough or rugged situation in your life right now? Is there someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness? Is there someone you need to forgive?
- “Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out.” Last weekend, we had a spectacular wedding here involving a young couple. The bride and groom selected our church because they said it is “the most beautiful church we’ve ever seen.” Her family has visited here a few times, and has fallen in love with our congregation. We received rave reviews from the wedding crowd who had an incredibly positive experience of church here. We had evangelized them with our joy, warmth, hospitality, and faith. Yes, I went a little John the Baptist on them in the homily and preached the truth which they said was inspiring. But, that was after they heard the stories of your joyful and loving spirit, encountered your kindness in and around the church, and saw a bunch of my smiles (I’m a proud papa at weddings, baptisms, confirmations, and first Holy Communions). By the time I said a word about marriage or faith during the wedding, we had already evangelized them!
Evangelize your family this Advent and Christmas. I don’t mean to speak to them at the top of your voice. I mean to be a herald of glad tidings. Show them a joyful or forgiving spirit that is uniquely Christian. That could very well be the precursor for them asking about the good news of the Gospel. In this way, you will prepare the way of the Lord!
May you know the peace of Christ,
Fools for Christ
People liked hearing SJB
Focused / mission
One thing – God
What is your focus?
ADVENT – helps us to re-focus
What stands out about you (for Jesus)?
We all have had a SJB
Are you him to others?
by Fr Gregory Pine, O.P.
Fr. Greg Shaffer
3401 Martin Luther King Jr. AVE, SE
Washington, DC 20032
Fr. Greg Cell: 240-463-9960
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