November 29, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Let Advent be a time of hope and forgiveness

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Mt 24:42-44).

Yesterday we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, a time to express our gratitude for all God’s blessings. This weekend, we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, a season of joyful anticipation for our Lord’s coming again. Both should be occasions of great joy!

But Advent is also a penitential season. It’s a time when we prepare ourselves for the gifts of forgiveness and mercy that Christ will share with us when he comes again. During this holy season, we purify our hearts and our lives in eager anticipation of our Lord’s return.

Forgiveness was God’s motive for sending his only Son to be born among us as a man. As a result of human sinfulness, we were cut off from God’s goodness and exiled from the garden of peace and prosperity. By God’s grace, we have been saved in Christ, and our sins have been forgiven.

As Christians, we believe in the forgiveness of sins. We believe that the grace of Christ has opened the way for us to repent and be transformed. The season of Advent, which is characterized by St. John the Baptist’s call to metanoia (profound personal conversion), is a time of expectation and of hope. Nothing we can do—as individuals or as the people of God—can totally alienate us from God’s love and forgiveness.

We believe that Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death. As a result, human death has lost its permanence. We believe that Christ will come again. “We do not know on which day the Lord will come,” St. Matthew’s Gospel tells us (cf. Mt 24:42), but our faith assures us that if we die in God’s grace, we will all rise again on the Last Day and, by the mercy of God, be united with Christ in the joy of heaven.

The child lying in the manger at Bethlehem is God incarnate (in the flesh). His human body is sacred because it is intimately and indissolubly united with his divine nature.

Our human flesh is sanctified by the Lord’s incarnation. Because we are his sisters and brothers, made in the image and likeness of God, our bodies are also holy. Sin is the cause of our suffering and death, but Christ has triumphed over all evil, including death. We believe in the resurrection of the body, because Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us in the realm of everlasting life.

Christmas is not just a fond remembrance of the Christ Child’s birth. It is a joyful affirmation that he is the blessed hope who will come again at the end of time. We believe in Christ’s coming again because we know that he is always faithful to his promises.

Forgiveness is an Advent theme because we are a people of profound hope. And what is more hope-filled than the assurance that our sins can be forgiven, and that we can overcome the cruelty and apparent finality of death?

I hope you will make time this Advent season to go to confession and seek God’s forgiveness. It is readily available in the sacrament of penance, and the Lord is never stingy in sharing with us the richness of his mercy.

I hope you will attend Mass regularly this Advent season. The Eucharist is where we experience Christ most intimately in his word and in the sacrament of his body and blood. At Mass, we thank God for his presence among us, but we also pray for his coming again at the end of time. We have no idea when the Last Day will be, but we know with the certainty of faith that it will involve each one of us (“all the living and the dead”) in a moment of reckoning that will determine how we will spend eternity.

Thank God, we are people of hope who believe in the forgiveness of sins! That’s why we look forward to Christ’s second coming with the same joyful expectation and longing that Mary and Joseph and the shepherds experienced at the first Christmas.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! May this Advent be a time of hope and forgiveness for each of us and for our Church. †

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