Advent Reconciliation: Offering Jesus the gift of a purified heart Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, a column by Fr. Donald Lange

In the November 2013 issue of The Word Among Us, Scott Hahn is quoted as saying that an American priest went to Rome for a conference and a group meeting with Pope John Paul II. Before the meeting, the priest noticed a beggar on the steps of a church.

He recognized him as his former seminary classmate in Rome. They were ordained to the priesthood together. Now he was a beggar.

Response of John Paul II

When he met with the pope, the priest told him about his classmate. Pope John Paul promised to pray for him. Then he invited the priest and his beggar-classmate to dine with him.

When the meal ended, the pope asked if he could speak alone with the beggar. When they met privately, the beggar said that the pope clasped his hands and asked, “Father, would you hear my confession?”

“I’m a beggar,” the man apologized.

The pope replied, “So am I! We’re all beggars!”

After the beggar-priest heard the pope’s confession, he knelt and tearfully asked the pope to hear his confession. The pope accepted. Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation from the pope filled him with joy.

Priests see the joy of reconciliation often

We priests have seen the joy of the “forgiven beggar” in penitents who have been away from the Church for years and received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sometimes they seem to bubble with joy.

Advent is the season of hope and joy. During Advent we wait with hope and joy for Christ’s second coming when He will come in glory to judge the living and dead.

In no. 1060 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ forever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), in eternal life.”

From December 17 to December 24, the Mass readings shift from waiting for Christ’s second coming to preparing to celebrate Christ’s coming at Christmas.

Scriptural reminders

In Luke 1:31, the angel Gabriel tells Mary, “You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus.” The name Jesus in Hebrew means “God saves.”

It reminds us that the Father gave us Jesus so that he would redeem us from our sins so that we might be reconciled with one another and the Father. After Jesus died on the cross, he returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to help us to love others as he loved us.

After the angel’s visit, Mary visited Elizabeth who would soon give birth to John the Baptist.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, unborn John in Elizabeth’s womb recognized Jesus and leaped for joy. The adult John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ coming by preaching repentance.

Three parables of Jesus

Chapter 15 of Luke consists of three parables of joyful repentance. In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus says “There is more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over 99 righteous people who have no need to repent.”

Then Jesus ends the Parable of the Lost Coin with the words, “There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

The final parable in Luke 15 is the prodigal son. The father is so joyous over his son’s repentant return that he sponsors a big feast to celebrate his coming home. When the elder brother hears the sound of music and dancing, he becomes angry.

The loving Father explains to his elder son, “But (don’t you see?) we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead and has come to life. He was lost and has been found.”

Penance is powerful during Advent season

It seems to me that communal penance services especially offer us the graced opportunity to celebrate the joy that comes from experiencing God’s forgiveness, especially as revealed in Luke 15.

At Christmas we can show children the crib and explain that Jesus means “God saves.” We can tell them that Jesus was born to redeem us from our sins and gift us with Heaven.

We can remind ourselves that saying Jesus’ name reverently helps us recognize again that the merits of his redemption are mediated to us in priest’s absolution in the Sacrament of Penance.

The absolution begins with the words, “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.” Alleluia! Rejoice!

Blessed Pope John Paul, who will be canonized on April 27, 2014, often went to confession. His example can motivate us to receive the Sacrament of Penance, which parishes offer at special times during Advent.

Confession helps us celebrate Christmas with joy

Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Advent helps us to celebrate Christmas with purified and joyful hearts.

The best Christmas present that we can give to Jesus is the gift of a purified forgiving and forgiven heart. Let’s pray for the grace to offer Jesus this gift this Christmas.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.