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Facing up to our sin

December 7, 2017
Deacon Faiva Po’oi

In the first reading, Isaiah tells us that God comes into our lives as comfort for our sorrow, as glory for our wonder, as power for our weakness, and as reward for our faithfulness. In the second reading, Peter admonishes the people and encourages them and us to prepare ourselves for His coming by living without strife and by living in peace. In the Gospel, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus’ coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John the Baptist had one burning mission in life, and that was to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus and the beginning of his public ministry. Part of that preparation demanded that the spotlight of truth be focused on the reality of their sins. John’s followers realized and accepted that any real relationship with Jesus would require a cleansing of heart and a change in life. John’s stern message proclaimed centuries ago is as valid today as it was then. If Christ is to enter our world and find his rightful place in this generation, then you and I must face up to and deal with the awful fact of our own sinfulness. Sin is a solid reality.

If you have any doubts about this, just read the newspaper. In a single day, a newspaper says more about sin than most priests say in a lifetime.

When John stood on the banks of the River Jordan and called on the people to repent of their sins, he was not dealing with irrelevancies. He was right on target. Sin is a fact of life and must be faced. Unless we recognize its presence in the world, in our lives, and in our very hearts, we fall more and more deeply into it.

Comparing ourselves to those people about whom we read in the newspapers, many of us might feel rather smug. After all, we have never stolen an automobile, or broken into someone’s shop or store. And hopefully, we do not plan to! We have never committed any of those violent crimes that are reported in the evening news. We might even be somewhat inclined to disassociate ourselves from the sin problem, as though we were spectators looking on from afar.

But when Jesus comes, that kind of attitude will not be enough. Jesus goes behind the actual deed and deals with sin at its source. He takes us on a tour of our hearts and minds and shows us the seed beds where sin first takes root. Jesus knew that sin is the result of a deep-seated wrongness in the human heart. All of us have it. There is something wrong on the inside that makes us hate and hurtful toward other, often choosing to use and abuse each other and our very selves.

This is what the coming of Jesus is all about. We are encouraged to face the reality of our own sinfulness so that, with his help, we may find a cure!

All of us can understand the necessity of making this kind of change! If Christ is to be a real part of our lives, we must make some serious effort to repent and to conform to his standards. If we cannot do this, then our celebration of advent is little more than a sham.

God continues to give us ample opportunities to change our lives and follow the way that Jesus taught us. God is still with us, clearing the path and setting up circumstances so we can come to know him better through the life and teachings of Jesus. God is always with us, constantly leading us and welcoming us to a closer relationship with him.

May the holy Eucharist bring us together as one family united by God’s love.

Deacon Po’oi serves at St. Timothy Parish, San Mateo.

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