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Advent,Second Sun.C.,Dec.2000

Addressing the Bishops of the United States, the late Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Bernardin once said: “Catholics cannot evangelize the eighty million unchurched in the United states when so many Catholics themselves have yet to experience conversion.” Often we think of ourselves as good Christians, but when we examine our lives we find that we are far, far away from the way of life Jesus wants us to follow. Our arrogance, our selfishness, our uncharitable attitudes etc make us unchristian and often in human. Can we remain in that state of mind and call ourselves Christians? No, we cannot. Our vocation as Christians demands an ongoing conversion in our lives, a turning towards Jesus, and a turning away from the path of selfishness and sins.

That is why at the beginning of the Advent season, as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Church presents before us the august figure of John the Baptist, the last Prophet of the Old testament and the first prophet of the New Testament.

The message of the John the Baptist was simple and direct. He proclaimed the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist knew what was wrong with man and how that can be rectified. Our repentance enables us to be forgiven. Once our sins are forgiven, our hearts become free of burdens and we enjoy deep peace and joy. As Bishop Sheen points out:“ Unless souls are saved, nothing is saved; there can be no world peace unless there is soul peace.”

How did John accomplish his ministry? How did he bring about the conversion of human hearts? His way of life, his attachment to God and his fearless preaching have brought to many an awareness of their sins and the need to be reconciled with God.. He was the harbinger of justice and he spoke fearlessly against the path of sin whether it existed among the kings or the poor. Hence the evangelist finds the words of the prophet Isaiah truly fulfilled in him: about the wonderful changes happening in the hearts of people, the humble being raised high and the arrogant and the proud being brought down.

Today as we prepare ourselves for a spiritual rebirth,let us also undergo this spiritual conversion through a sincere repentance of our sins. The sacrament of reconciliation offers us the chance to accept forgiveness and mercy from our Lord. It is not our sins that matter most, but our humble and contrite heart. Jesus is the one who searches for the lost sheep.

We have created valleys in our lives, when we have not helped others, when we have not spoken kind words to our neighbors or when we have withheld help to others. These are the valleys in our lives that are to be filled in. What are the mountains in our lives that are to be leveled: our arrogance, pride, domineering attitudes, and our all-knowing behavior. What are the winding roads to be made straight? They are the deceptions, manipulations, and conniving ways that characterize our dealings with others. There are hundreds of ways in which we have to make improvements in our lives. Let this advent season be another occasion for us to follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist in order to follow our Lord more closely in our lives.

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