This Advent should be like no other because 2020 has proven to be anything but normal. With the COVID-19 virus running amuck causing dramatic restrictions in our lives, we have had to grapple with numerous challenges. Living in closed quarters with our family members for an extended period has painfully revealed our shortcomings in loving God and loving others. Mixed in the frenzy was the political stew of strong differing views in the presidential election. If we are honest, we can acknowledge our harsh judgments on the ‘other’ candidates and our lack of love in speech and action for our neighbors. We have experienced months of internal agitation and external discord.
This Sunday, we will light the second candle of the Advent wreath. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight,” (Mark 1:3) is the Advent call. It leads me to look into my heart.
What does my heart look like? “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Because tortuous means full of twists and turns, I imagine the topography of my heart to be circuitous and tangled like the strings of Christmas tree lights thrown in the storage box.
“Make straight the way of the Lord.” HOW?
Sin hardens our hearts and robs us of peace. Stiffened hearts provide no path for Jesus to come. Bolted doors do not allow for grace or love to flow in nor out. Only forgiveness removes sin and clears the path to make “hearts of stone into hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). Advent provides us an opportunity to uncover and remove the blocks of sin and unforgiveness.
- Humbly acknowledge our sins, which are an affront to God’s love and ask for His forgiveness.
Repentance of our sins re-turns us to a path towards the love of God and neighbor. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we receive the beautiful gift of absolution when the priest says, “Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
- Let us confront unforgiveness in our hearts. The most challenging block to displace from our hearts is unforgiveness. It comes from knowing that a person has thrown us a damaging blow that wounds us and holding that person into account to revoke what they have done and undo the pain we feel. The trouble with unforgiveness is that it is a dreadful prison. Keeping grudges, clinging to bitterness, harboring anger are weights that drag down our heart, the cold that freezes it. We all know what these feel like. The only antidote to the poison is to forgive those who have hurt us. When we decide, “I forgive (name) for (their act that hurt you),” we let go of the grievance and its deadly grip.
Asking God for forgiveness for the wrongs we have done and forgiving others for the injuries they have done to us are very difficult things to do. Only love has the power to prevail over these wrongs. God’s forgiveness of our sins is total, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.” (Psalm 103:12). God cancels our sins out of His great love for us. We are released from guilt and shame. Our conscience quiets down.
Forgiving those who have hurt us or forgiving ourselves is a decision we make that can transform our hearts to be tender, responsive, and healed. Forgiveness involves canceling any debt that a person owes us or any account or score they have to settle. It means putting a 0.00 on the bottom line of any spreadsheet we may be keeping on a person or ourselves. We forgive with the love that we have received from God’s forgiveness of our sins. It is grace that will enable us to forgive others. This decision will displace bitterness, anger, and resentment with peace.
The Peace We Long For
When we humbly acknowledge our sinfulness before God, we become more compassionate and merciful with our neighbors, who are fellow sinners. In their weaknesses, we can see our own. We stand in solidarity as sinners in need of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We all wait this Advent season for Him whose Light will dispel the darkness in our hearts.
Next Sunday (Dec 13), we light the rose candle of the Advent wreath. It represents JOY – Gaudete Sunday. Let us attend to our tortuous hearts today and face the blocks that may have been there for years or just recently. Let us confess our sins, forgive others, and forgive ourselves not only to become free, but also to clear the way for Jesus to come to us. This year 2020, let us make this Advent season count.
Christmas will most likely be not normal this year, but when we become interiorly free from sin and bitterness, there will be ‘room in the inn’ for the Infant Jesus.
Copyright 2020 Nannet Horton
|Nannet Horton is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, NFP teacher, and CGS catechist. She enjoys being a student of the Catholic faith and teaching it to others. Her first book, “Missionary Parenting – Cultivating the 6 Key Relationships Essential to Your Domestic Church,” is co-written with her husband, Bob.|