Monday, December 12, 2016

Grow in Holiness this Advent Wk 3; Confess and Rejoice!

(This is the third in a series of Advent meditations. You can read the first mediation, on the Three Advents of Christ, and the second, on Conquering Covetousness by clicking those links. This week, we're looking at another essential part of Advent -- Confession.)

Picture with Story from Daily Mail - check it out HERE
It's the third week of Advent - Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday. This week we light the pink candle on our advent wreaths, Mass is celebrated by father in pink (sorry, rose) vestments, and we are called to Rejoice! that our Savior is near at hand.

One way to Rejoice! over the last two weeks of Advent is to make a sincere and contrite confession. Unburdening yourself of your sins and hearing the words of Christ, speaking though his priest,
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 
 provides, as any Catholic can tell you, a feeling of relief and joy.

Rejoice! for the healing power of Christ is still alive and active in the world.

If you are skeptical, if you are asking yourself why you ought to confess in the presence of a priest, I'll point you to my post:

Yes, that says, "All Christians," not just all Catholics.

Aside from Eastern Orthodox, we also find the value of a good auricular confession maintained, though not stressed as essential, in some Protestant traditions, especially Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

Of course, most Protestant denominations have eschewed the traditional Christian practice of confessing their sins. Some confess only "in their heart," others have abandoned confessing altogether, believing that their Faith in Jesus means they have no need of confessing their sins post-conversion. This is, as I demonstrate in the aforementioned post , is a grave misunderstanding. For, as Jesus Himself assures us
nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. (Lk. 8:16-17, RSV)
Better to have it "come to light" in this life, in the confessional, than hiding it until all things will be dragged into the light after we have time to repent of them. We will confess our sins with repentance now or confess them unrepentant when it is too late, either way we will confess.

This is made wonderfully clear in The Divine Comedy. Dante, upon entering the first circle where he sees the damned being punished, meets Minos - the judge of Hell standing "orribilmente, e ringhia" ("horribly and growling"). The souls, lost for all eternity, having never confessed, having tried to keep their sins from "com(ing) to light," find themselves compelled to do what could have saved them,
Dico che quando l'anima mal natali vien dinanzi, tutta si confessa;e quel conoscitor de le peccatavede qual loco d'inferno è da essa. 
I say, that when the ill-born spirit comes before him, it confesses all; and that sin-discerner sees what place in hell is for it (Inferno 5.7-10)
Their confession is now futile.
vanno a vicenda ciascuna al giudizio, dicono e odono e poi son giù volte.
they go each in his turn to judgment; they tell, and hear; and then are whirled down. (Inferno 5.14-15)
But your confession isn't futile, at least not yet.

Confess, rejoice, and be glad as you come closer to Christmas.

Have a holy Advent!
And behold I am coming soon (Rev. 22:7, RSV)
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Monday, December 5, 2016

Grow in Holiness this Advent Wk 2; Conquering Covetousness

In Dicken's A Christmas Carol we meet the embodiment of Avarice, Ebenezer Scrooge, a man who loved gold more than God. His opinion of Christmas is well known to us all,
Merry Christmas! Out upon a merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will... every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' upon his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his hear. He should! (pp. 5-6)
Scrooge's love for money has replaced not only his love of Christmas, but love of anything else. This love of money isn't just greed, it is a false religion.

Dante dramatically presents this reality to us when he stands before the damned Pope Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini),
Fatto v'avete dio d'oro e d'argento;e che altro è da voi a l'idolatre,se non ch'elli uno, e voi ne orate cento?
You have wrought yourselves a god of gold and silver.
How then do you differ from those who worship idols
except they worship one and you a hundred? (Inferno 19.112-114)
St. Thomas Aquinas addresses the "spirit of Scrooge" in the Summa
man seeks, according to a certain measure, to have external riches, in so far as they are necessary for him to live in keeping with his condition of life. Wherefore it will be a sin for him to exceed this measure, by wishing to acquire or keep them immoderately. This is what is meant by covetousness, which is defined as "immoderate love of possessing." It is therefore evident that covetousness is a sin. (II-II. Q. 118, A. 1)
Or, in the more recent words of Pope Benedict XVI
Material possessions, in themselves, are good. We would not survive for long without money, clothing, and shelter. We must eat in order to stay alive. Yet if we are greedy, if we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, then we make our possessions into a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god. (Address to Disadvantaged Youth, in Sydney, Australia.)
How tempting it is this time of year, especially for those who ignore Advent, focusing solely on the "shopping season" of the secular Christmastide - Black Friday through December 24th, to focus overly much on possessions. Indeed, admirably, much of this is the opposite of what Scrooge lived for. He wanted only to take, to increase, while ignoring those others about him. We rather look to purchase things for others, for those we love and cherish. However, this Advent I would recommend to you to take it one step further - give to someone in need. Not just through an organization, great and commendable as that may be, but directly, personally. How can you find such people? Contact your parish, they'll point you in the right direction. For Scrooge himself began to recognize this. While haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past, upon seeing his younger self, he remembers a small boy who had earlier began singing God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay! at his keyhole. Scrooge's reaction?
Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost. (p. 9)
His later reaction to his behavior?
'I wish,' Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: 'but it's too late now.'
'What is the matter?' asked the Spirit.
'Nothing,' said Scrooge. 'Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have liked to have given him something: that's all.' (p. 26)
We might not have the poor singing carols at our doors, but they might be a lot closer than you think.

If that isn't enough to motivate you, remember how Jesus, "the reason for the season," identifies Himself with the poor,
Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you... For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.... Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matt. 25:34-40, ESV)
Have a holy Advent.
Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Rev. 22:20-21, ESV) 
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