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Godzdogz

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Second Sunday of Advent: The Power of Repentance and Forgiveness

Sunday, December 07, 2014

When we use the word 'power' in relation to God, various images may spring to mind.

In the reading from Isaiah today, we are shown the triumphant, regal image of power with the Lord subduing all things with his arm, with his trophies going before him. We also see this mighty power in the imagery of that final, apocalyptic ‘Day of the Lord’ presented to us in the letter of St Peter, where we are told the sky will vanish in a roar, and all the entire earth will be burnt up. Scary stuff, you might say.

Another image of power used across the three readings in the Mass this Sunday is that of the power of repentance and forgiveness. For some people it might be difficult to see how power might be related to repentance and forgiveness; the idea of repenting might seem feeble, and more an image of powerlessness than one of power. So where is the power in repentance? It is to be found, I want to suggest, in the unity of two wills: God’s and ours. It is God who stirs our hearts and encourages our will to turn from those things that we have done which lead us away from Him. God loves you and me so much and desires for there to be no separation between us and Him. Sin introduces a rift into that relationship, but it is repentance that helps make, as our first reading says, ‘a straight highway for God’. Repentance is that turning directly to the heart of the Lord. It is an acknowledgement of our brokenness and falling-short of our vocation to love due to sin, and our confession that God is the one to bring healing. Great is that power which can release one from the bondage of sin. God’s mighty arm and the power of His forgiveness can be encountered today in the Sacrament of Reconciliation: the mighty arm of the Lord now in the form of the arm of the priest, who acts as the minister of God’s forgiving love, who raises his mortal hand, making with it the sign of cross whilst saying the words of absolution. What great power this is: the power to restore to new life.

Advent is a time for us to clear our hearts, to become a little Bethlehem so that Our Lord has somewhere to make his home. Whether we are great or little sinners, we are all called to welcome the Lord into our hearts and to shine like the star of Bethlehem directing all peoples to the promised Saviour of Israel, who is the long awaited Redeemer of all humanity. He has come and He is to come again. ‘Shout without fear’ and ‘with a loud voice’ as Isaiah tells us and let us welcome Our Saviour. 

Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 84:9-14; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

Br Joseph Bailham O.P.

Br Joseph Bailham O.P.


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