Christ is born. Let the world rejoice! During Advent the Liturgy of the Church makes use of the Gospel readings to show that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in Jesus: He makes the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and the broken hearts consoled.
But the greatest miracle is to have sins forgiven. “My child, your sins are forgiven!” That is the true liberation!
However, it is strange that this sentence is not always welcome. The Pharisees questioned Jesus where did he get the authority to forgive sins. People of our generation would even asked, “Your forgive my sins? Am I a sinner?”
Some people think that since they have not killed they are not sinners. Some think that the Ten Commandments are only an ideal. They aim for too high. We do not have to take them seriously. Some admit their moral life is not up to standard but they easily exonerate themselves: there are too many temptations, there is too much pressure. Some do not even recognize what sin is. Some even think that it is morbid to have a sense of guilt, because sin does not exist.
For these people the coming of Christmas means holidays, gatherings, parties, gifts etc. They have wasted a precious opportunity. Let us search the depth of our hearts and acknowledge that we are sinners, that we have denied the grace of God, that our behaviours have gone far away from God, that we are sick and need the Divine Healer from heaven to heal us.
Let us judge ourselves. If we do so the Judge will pronounce our innocence! This is indeed a very profitable deal.
Repentance demands a change. “Yours sins are forgiven. Do not sin again.” Only a change in our behaviour can show that our repentance is true. In fact, we cannot deceive God or own selves. Our conscience will tell us whether we are truly repentant.
There are times when we have to show our bothers and sisters that we are truly repentant. If a sin is publicly known or it is against the laws of the Church the repentance will have to be public. If not the bad example given cannot be amended. If those who have a ministry in the Church committed an offence against the laws of the Church the responsibility to make public amend is greater.
The Church is a Mother. She forgives easily. But in forgiving it is necessary to give penance. If the Church misleads the faithful in thinking that an offence against the laws of the Church is a triviality she is responsible for those in the future who might easily commit such offences.
St. John Baptist has led us to Christmas. He has the spirit of Isaiah in having no tolerance vis-à-vis sins. He said “No” to Herod. May the precursor of Jesus help us to be “steadfast”. To be “steadfast in truth” is our glory as Christians. Be a person of character!
Do you feel that what has been written above is not compatible with the spirit of gentleness of Christmas? Let us not forget this: While we kneel before the stable we shall soon witness the blood of St. Stephen. Martyrdom is logical!
Yours in the Lord, + Joseph ZEN, SDB Christmas 2006