Saturday, December 31, 2022

Mary the Mother of God (Luke 2:16-21)


 Any of the feasts of Our Lady always remind me of one thing: what God can do through any human being who has an open heart. God does not need greatness, just an open heart.


You could be given the impression that it would have been easier for Mary than for other people because she was without sin. However, the fact that she was without sin means that she would have been more sensitive to evil than others and would have suffered more because of it than anyone else. From what we know in the Scriptures, she suffered from the time that the Angel appeared to her and told her that God was asking her to be the mother of Jesus. She was already legally married to Joseph, but not living with him, as was the tradition with Jewish marriages. Now she was pregnant before she came to live with Joseph in a way that was impossible to explain or understand from a human point of view. So how would Mary explain this to Joseph? What embarrassment, fear and tension there must have been for her. You can imagine how people talked about her. And it wasn’t explained to Joseph until the last moment just as he was about to divorce her.


The birth of Jesus was in very difficult circumstances. They then had to flee in the middle of the night when they found out that Herod was going to try and kill the child.


Later on, Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days. During his public ministry she watched as the tension was building up with people for and against Jesus. And finally the arrest, torture and death of Jesus. But Mary never gave up hope. She continued to believe that God would make sense of it. After the resurrection she stayed with and encouraged the Apostles as they waited for the gift of the Spirit before Pentecost.


If you take any of those situations that Mary found herself in, you can imagine from a human point of view how we could see many of them as her life ‘going wrong.’ Why would God allow all the misunderstanding over her pregnancy? Why didn’t He allow Joseph to understand it straight away? Why all the public humiliation? Remember that she was only fourteen or fifteen when she became pregnant. How could God allow a death threat against Jesus just after his birth? Why did He have to go through all the rejection during his public ministry? Why did such an innocent man have to be tortured and killed? Yet all of those events fitted together perfectly in God’s plan.


Star of the Sea

Now think of your own life. Think of all the things that you think of as having gone wrong. The unexpected changes, sicknesses, jobs unfairly lost, painful marriage breakups, the death of a child. How could God allow all these things to happen when He loves us so much? Yet if you look back at the life of Our Lady, it reminds us that there is a bigger picture, which doesn’t make any sense to us now. It will only make sense when we look back after we have gone to heaven. That’s one reason why the life of Our Lady is so important. We remember many of the events in her life when everything seemed to go wrong, but now we see played their part in God’s plan. Do you think there is any event in her life that she would now say to God would be better if it hadn’t happened?


Over the centuries Mary has appeared in many parts of the world, particularly over the last century. Many of those apparitions have been officially recognized, some not yet. What is significant in each place, is that what she says is nearly always the same. She tells us that we cannot exist without God, that we need to turn away from sin and obey the Commandments. We need to read Scripture, go to Mass and to pray and fast. She is always pointing us to Jesus. It is never about herself. She tells us that we need to confess our sins often, yet sadly very few people feel the need for this. I wonder who convinced them that it is not necessary? She also tells us that we cannot live without God. Our life makes no sense without God. We will only be on this earth for a short time, so we need to be careful how we use our time. It always makes me sad when I see or hear of people who get obsessed with money and material things, as if that was the answer to everything. It is also sad to see how people can become obsessed with power, which so often leads to the suffering of others. If God the Father sends Our Lady to us, then we need to listen to what she is telling us, because this is what God is telling us. If we try and live without God we will destroy ourselves, which is what we see happening around us. But what is also important is that the messages, just like the Gospel, are messages of hope, because God is merciful and God will always take us back if we sincerely repent. But our lives don’t make any sense apart from God. God must be at the center.

Think for a moment of all the time we spend preparing for our career on earth. Think of all the time an energy you put into preparing your children so that they will have a good life on earth. How much time do we spend preparing for what comes after this life. This life will soon be over. The world to come will never end.


Lilly of the Valley

The life of Mary is a wonderful witness to us for several reasons. One, it is a reminder to us of what God can do through a human being. Mary is fully human and we should never worship her as that would be idolatry, but we give her great honor as Jesus did. We ask for her intercession as we continue on our journey to heaven. She has been through dreadful suffering, so we can ask for her help, knowing that she understands our suffering. When we find ourselves losing hope, remember that Mary never lost hope, in spite of that she had to go through. Much of her life didn’t make sense at the time. So we ask her to help us not to lose hope when our life doesn’t seem to make sense either, but to trust in God’s wisdom that it will make sense when we are shown the whole picture.


Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas. The great rescue



One year, just before Christmas, I got a call from the diocese asking me if I would be willing to let WINK News interview me. They were doing a short report, interviewing different religious leaders about Christmas. The reporter asked me what message I would like to give people about Christmas. I was thinking, the message we have is the greatest and most hopeful message there has ever been, because it is the message that everyone wants to hear, that is, where to find happiness.


Everyone in the world is looking for happiness. We may have very different ideas as to what happiness is, but everyone wants happiness. And the wonderful thing is that God created us for happiness. That was God’s design for us and initially we had total happiness. That is presented to us through the story of Adam and Eve, who represent our first parents. God gave them everything they could ask for and they were completely happy. But God also warned them to respect their limitations and remember that they were humans and not God. That’s what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents.

You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For on the day that you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen 2:16-17).


Only God tells us what is ultimately good and evil. If they had listened to what God told them, they would have continued to enjoy that happiness.


But Satan tempted them with a lie. He told them that they would not die, that in fact they would be like God themselves. Why would Satan even bother with us, since he is such a powerful being? Because he hates God and he hates God’s creation, especially us because we are made in the image of God. If Satan isn’t real, then Jesus lied, because Jesus spoke about him many times. Jesus said he was a liar and a murdered from the beginning.


So instead of listening to God, Adam and Eve listened to Satan. They rejected the word of God and as a result they lost the happiness that God had given them. Chaos entered their world, because they did not listen to God. The biggest problem was that they had no way of undoing the damage they had done. They had lost paradise. But because God loves us He would not allow his creation to fall to ruin. And so God the Son took on human flesh and came among us in the person of Jesus, to rescue us and this is what we celebrate at Christmas, the beginning of the great rescue. God came to offer himself in atonement for our sin, so that we could once again have that happiness. This event began at Christmas and ended 33 years later at Easter with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus atoned for the sin of Adam and Eve, which affected all of us. So now, the possibility of eternal happiness is there once again when we die and God offers it to us and we have the freedom to accept or reject it.


So Christmas is celebrating the beginning of the great rescue of humanity, so that we could have happiness, which is what everyone is looking for. No wonder there were extraordinary signs at the time of Christ’s birth. Angels appeared to shepherds and different people were led to where Jesus had been born. Even the name Jesus, means, ‘Who Saves’. That’s why the Angel Gabriel said to Joseph, ‘And you must name him Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins’ (Mt 1:21).


In practical terms it means that all of our loved ones who have gone before us, can be with God in eternal happiness, which is what God intended for us in the first place. But the amazing thing is that we can reject God, because has given us that freedom. God will not force anything on us, because He respects the free will that He has given us. You cannot force someone to love you and neither will God force us to love him. So we must choose for God and we do that by choosing to live as He asks and that comes down to how we live each day.


When Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes in 1858, she said to her, ‘I cannot promise you happiness in this life, but in the next.’ If we realized that we will not have full happiness in this life, but in the next, we would probably be much more at peace. But if we put all our energies into trying to find complete happiness here, we will be disappointed. We will hopefully find a certain amount of contentment and times of great happiness, but complete fulfillment is only for the world to come.


The chaos that is all around us in our world right now, is because people are doing exactly what Adam and Eve did. They have rejected God and refuse to listen to God’s word. And so what is happening is exactly what God told us would happen: chaos follows. The very answer that people are looking for, is the very thing people have turned their back on. God shows us exactly how to live, so that our lives and our world will flourish. All we have to do is follow what He commands us, but just like Adam and Eve, we are not always convinced and we turn in the other direction. The answer for our world is to turn back to God once again.


In the second book of Chronicles 7:14, it says:

If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.”


Throughout history, people have done the same thing again and again, rejecting God and then watching their world fall apart. It is only when they turned back to God that everything begins to fit together again. This is what the Lord is calling us to do right now: to turn back to him and ask his forgiveness.


The wonderful thing is that God wants our happiness and has gone to the ends of the earth to make sure we can have eternal happiness. All we have to do is listen to what He tells us to do.


Think of someone you love who has died. We long to be with them again and the pain of separation is often unbearable. What God offers us is the possibility of being with them again, where we will no longer suffer and we will only have joy. That is what God wanted for us in the first place and that now awaits us if we choose it, but we must choose it.


In 1917 in Fatima, Our Lady appeared to three young children: Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia, who were 7, 9 and 10. One of the things she said to them was, “If people knew what heaven was like, they would do everything to change their ways.” Why do you think Our Lady has continued to appear all over the world over the last century in particular? To tell us to wake up, so that we don’t lose this possibility, because we can lose it if we are not careful how we live. If we continually reject the ways of God we will lose it and then we will not be with our loved ones again. That is why our choices are so serious.


So, the message of Christmas is the most wonderful and hopeful one of all. This is the answer everyone is looking for and we have already come to know it.


The angel said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ the Lord.”

Saturday, December 17, 2022

4th Sunday of Advent (Gospel: Matthew 1: 18-24) Who will save me from this wretched state?


Today I want to address a question that often comes up when people are talking to me in confession and it is related to what we celebrate at Christmas. Actually it is more of a fear than a question. Almost everyone talks about a particular weakness that they struggle with, whether it be anger, gossip, a sexual weakness, an addiction, or something else and it causes no end of suffering and humiliation. No matter how hard we try, we don’t seem to be able to overcome it. In fact I’ve often heard people say to me that they don’t feel there is any point in going to confession anymore because they just end up confessing the same sin again and again and they don’t seem to be getting any better, so where’s the point? It can make us afraid that we won’t be able to go to heaven because of our weakness. ‘Since I can’t overcome this sin, why would God allow me to go to heaven?’ That is usually the thinking behind it. However, when we think like that I believe we are really missing the whole point of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The truth is that no matter how hard we try to be good enough and overcome our sins, our weaknesses, we continually fall short of the mark. That is our reality. When he wrote to the Christians in Rome, St. Paul put it like this:

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are redeemed by his grace as a gift… to be received by faith (Rom 3:23ff).


In plain English that is saying to us, since all of us have sinned and can never be good enough for God by our own strength, it is God himself who has made up the difference for us. God has made up for us what we cannot do ourselves, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The fact that we will always be sinners and will always struggle with various weaknesses is no longer a problem, because God has made us ‘good enough’ through what Jesus did. That is what being ‘redeemed’ means. We cannot get to heaven by our own strength, by our own efforts, because we are too weak and too sinful and no matter how hard we try, we keep falling short of the mark. But we don’t have to be afraid of that because Jesus himself has made up for us what we cannot do ourselves.


St. Paul also struggled with his own weaknesses which caused him great humiliation. You would imagine with all that God did through him, the amazing conversion experience he had and the many visions of Jesus that he had, Listen to what he says about it:

I do not understand my own behavior; I do not act as I mean to, but I do things that I hate.  ...the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want—that is what I do. (Cf. Rom 7:14-24)


And finally he says, ‘Who will save me from this wretched state? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ.’ That is the same fear that people keep telling me about in confession: ‘Who will save me from this wretched weakness? How can I ever come before God in heaven when this is what I’m like?’ This is where God calls us to realize what Jesus has done for us. He has made up for our weakness himself. That is why the coming of Jesus among us at Christmas is such an extraordinary event, because it is the beginning of God making up for our weakness, our sinfulness. We are not able to be good enough for God by our own strength, but it no longer matters because Jesus has made himself the bridge between God and humanity. Now we can come before God without fear, because Jesus has made it possible. Each time we celebrate the mass we are becoming present to that event—the sacrifice of Jesus—which made it possible for us to go to heaven. No other sacrifice or offering to God will ever be necessary for us, because the selfless act of Jesus dying for us has done everything necessary. All we have to do is to accept it. No wonder we celebrate the mass every day, in every church all over the world.


The mistake we continually make, which causes us to be afraid, is to think that we have to become ‘good enough’ for God by our own strength, but the problem is that that is impossible for us by our own strength. If we stop there, then we would have every reason to despair, but once we realize that it is Jesus who steps in and bridges the gap, then we have endless hope, because it no longer depends on us being good enough. All we have to do is accept this extraordinary gift from God and continue to try and do what is right.


However, it would also be a mistake to think that since Jesus has opened the possibility of heaven for us, that we can do whatever we want. ‘It’s all the same, God loves everyone and so everyone goes to heaven.’ That is an error of our times and it’s not what the Scriptures say. St. Paul writes, ‘Go on working out your salvation in fear and trembling.’ Don’t take it for granted, because we also have to play our part, which is to do our best to do what is right and live by God’s Commandments.


Why does God allow us to go on struggling? God could take away these weaknesses from us if He chose. The reason is because the very weaknesses we struggle with, are often the very thing that keeps us close to God. They make us aware that we are weak and how much we are in need of God’s mercy. Again in his writings St. Paul talks about a particular weakness that he had—although he doesn’t say what it was—and how he begged God to take it away from him. And he said that God gave him this ‘thorn in the flesh’ as he calls it, because of the extraordinary visions and miracles that he was given. This weakness helped him to stay humble. And although he begged God to take it away from him, the Lord said no.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take this thing away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’.’ (2 Cor 12:8).


No doubt he felt that he would serve God much better if he could overcome his weaknesses, but God doesn’t see it this way. We generally feel the same: ‘If only I could overcome my weaknesses/addictions, I would be more pleasing to God and I would serve him better.’


A man said to me in confession one time, ‘I have a terrible anger and I lose my temper so often. It causes me great shame. If I could just get rid of this anger I’d be perfect!’ I said to him, ‘You thank God for that anger!’ You can imagine how easily we could become arrogant if we thought we had overcome our weaknesses and we were ‘blameless’ before God, as a surprising number of people think they are. St. Thomas Aquinas says, ‘The only thing that we can take credit for are our sins’. Everything we have is a gift from God, including our abilities, our education, our successes, our health. We have nothing to boast about before God and it is often our weaknesses that help us to see this.


So is Christmas relevant to us in a practical way in our day to day living? It certainly is, because the coming of God into our world in the person of Jesus is what reassures us that no matter how weak or sinful we are, the path to heaven will always remain open to us as long as we ask God for it. All we have to do is accept from God this amazing gift which He is offering us. What is the best way for us to prepare for this wonderful feast? by doing what God asks us to do and that is to repent and confess our sins; to acknowledge our sinfulness before God and ask for his mercy.


Who will save me from this wretched state? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ.’ (Rom 7:24)

Friday, December 9, 2022

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A (Matthew 11:2-11) The conversion of an atheist


Roe Shoeman

Today I would like to share with you the amazing conversion story of a man named Roy Shoeman, born 1951. If you can watch the video of his story I would highly recommend it, as it is one of the most inspiring stories I have heard in a long time.


Roy Shoeman was born and raised in a very Jewish family, the son of Jewish German holocaust refugees. He received a very Jewish upbringing and education. He then went to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), which is a very a technical and scientific institute. He says that in college he lost his faith and became an atheist. Having graduated from MIT, he went on to Harvard business school, and completed his degree in marketing. When he graduated at the age of 29, he was invited back to work on the faculty as professor of marketing. He was obviously a very clever man.


When he was a child he always believed there must be a God and purpose to life. When he made his Bar Mitzva, which is similar to Confirmation, he hoped that it would be the beginning of a personal relationship with God, but it was not. He said that in fact it was one of the saddest days of his life. He then got caught up with worldly living and went on through high school and college. But having become a Harvard professor at the age of 29 and more successful than he ever dreamed of, he fell into a terrible despair. He had everything, except meaning and purpose; in other words, he had nothing.


One day he was out walking in nature and he had the most extraordinary experience of his life. He said that suddenly the veil between earth and heaven disappeared and he could see the spiritual world. He was intensely aware that he was in the presence of God and he could also see back over his life. In an instant he saw most of what is taught in the Catholic faith—although he didn’t realize that at the time—that we live for all eternity, that every action has a moral content which is recorded for all eternity; that everything that had ever happened to him was perfect and in the hands of an all-knowing, all-loving God, not only including the things which had caused him the most suffering, but especially those things, that they all fitted together perfectly in God’s plan. In other words, the sufferings we go through serve a higher purpose, which we are not aware of now.


He was also shown the two greatest regrets he would have when he died. The first was all the time he had spent thinking he was not loved, when in fact he was held in perfect love, all his life by God. The second regret was all the time he had wasted doing things of no value in the eyes of heaven. While he felt that life had no meaning, he was shown that in fact life has an infinitely deep meaning and value. He was also shown that every moment of our life has the possibility of doing something of value in the eyes of heaven and that each valued action we do, will be rewarded for all eternity.


He says that the most transformative part of this experience was being shown that not only was God with him all throughout his life and held him in the deepest love, but that God was with him through every joy and sorrow he ever experienced. What made him happy, made God happy and what made him sad, made God sad. He realized that we are created to worship and serve God for all eternity. He says he began praying and asking God what his name was. He didn’t care if it was the Buddha and he had to become Buddhist, or Krishna and he had to become Hindu, just so long as it wasn’t Christ and he would have to become Christian. He says he felt that way because coming from a Jewish background he felt that if he became Christian he would be being unfaithful to his Jewish heritage. However, God respected this and did not reveal any name to him.


He then went home, happier than he had ever been in his life and began looking into various mystical ideas to try and find out who God was. Initially he tried New Age ideas, but he soon realized this was going in the wrong direction. He prayed every night that God might show him who He is.


A year to the day after this experience, he went asleep and was awakened and led to a room where he found himself in the presence of the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen. Without being told, he knew immediately that this was Our Lady. She spoke to him and said, ‘Are there any questions you would like me to answer for you?’ He says that he wished he knew the Hail Mary so as to show her honor and respect, but he didn’t. So, hoping to learn the Hail Mary, but being too embarrassed to admit he didn’t know it, he asked her what her favorite prayer was. She recited a prayer in Portuguese, which he didn’t understand, but he remembered it phonetically and later asked a Portuguese Catholic woman what it meant. She said it was the prayer ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.’ In the dream he found himself asking her how it was that she was so profoundly glorious and majestic. In response, she looked at him with pity and said, ‘Oh no. You don’t understand. I am nothing. I am only a creature. He is everything.’ When he woke the next morning he knew immediately that the God who had revealed himself to him was Christ and that he wanted to become Christian.


Straight away he found himself going to a phone book, looking up the nearest Christian Church. He knew nothing about Christianity and the difference between Protestants and Catholics, but he found himself talking to a Protestant pastor. When he shyly asked him about Our Lady, the pastor was not respectful in how he referred to her and this made him realize that he was in the wrong place. In the days and weeks that followed he found himself visiting Marian shrines and realizing that they were all part of the Catholic Church. He also found himself going to mass at times. When he did this, he felt a profound desire, almost lust, to receive the Eucharist, even though he had no idea what the Eucharist was. Within a short time, this led him to becoming a Catholic.


He says that not only did he not find himself being unfaithful to Judaism, but in fact he realized he was more Jewish than ever, because he was a Jew who had recognized the Messiah and was now following him. That’s exactly what the Apostles did. As Jews, they recognized Jesus as the Messiah and followed him. One leads directly to the other, which is what we believe.


After he became a Catholic, he says he still struggled with some of the teachings of the Church and it was about 18 months before he fully realized that all the teachings of the Church were true, because they are from God. The one he struggled with most was the teaching that people could be condemned to hell for all eternity. Talking to a priest that was guiding him, he expressed his doubt about this teaching. But the priest said to him, 'But it is a dogma (official teaching) of our faith.' In other words, we are obliged to accept and believe it as part of our faith, because it comes from God. He realized that he had been deciding what he should and should not believe, as opposed to accepting the teachings of the Church, because we believe they come from God. Who was he to decide what should be believed and what should not be believed. If God had revealed them, then they must be true. From then on he was able to accept what was taught by the Church as coming from God, even when he found it difficult to understand. This can be a challenge for all of us. It is a temptation to think that if a teaching doesn’t make sense to me then I need not believe or accept it. But if we really believe that what the Church teaches is God's teaching, then who are we to decide whether we will believe certain parts of it or not?


God gives us the experiences of people like Roy Shoeman, to help us believe. We all need help and encouragement, but testimonies like his are ongoing reminders of God’s wonderful providence among us, guiding us and encouraging us. He is constantly pointing us in the right direction, but always giving us the freedom to accept or reject him.


I want to finish with this quotation from the book of Joshua which I love and which expresses how I feel and hopefully what more and more people will embrace.


Joshua said to the people, “If you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve… As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”’ (Joshua 24:15)


Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.’


Saturday, December 3, 2022

2nd Sunday of Advent (Matt 3:1-12) No Christmas Without Repentance

How would you feel if you got a Christmas card that read like this:

Our thoughts of you this Christmas are best expressed in the words of John the Baptist,

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be thrown into the fire.”

Merry Christmas from Fr. Murchadh."


I suppose we would add Fr. Murchadh, or whoever sent it, to our list of x-friends!


Advent has really become the time of getting ready for Christmas in the sense of buying the gifts we want to give, going to office parties, etc, but this is quite different from the original message. John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus and his message was very strong. ‘Repent, confess your sins, change your lives and look for happiness in God.’ This is the part of preparing for Christmas that is easy to overlook. We want the celebration of Christmas, but we don’t necessarily want to have to repent. Just leave us alone and let us celebrate. We want absolution, but without having to confess. We want the love and blessing of God without having to follow the commandments. We want faith on our terms. That is called ‘cheap grace’. It is empty and it is not the message of God.


The message of God is a wonderful one, but is also a very demanding one. We can not come and pick what we like. Instead we come and ask what is required of us? That is what the people who came to John asked: ‘What must we do?’ To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a follower. We are not used to thinking this way, because our world encourages us to make sure things are as we would like them. If you’re not happy, move on; but this is not the message of the Gospels. In the Gospel we listen to what it is that God asks of us. We follow God on God’s terms and not our terms. 


Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of woman. He was totally focused on God. He knew what was important and he passed on the message he was told to pass on and it cost him his life. He was beheaded by Herod for speaking the truth. We don’t always want to hear the truth because it is often demanding and challenges us to change.


If we are serious about celebrating Christmas as a Christian feast, then let us not forget the message of John the Baptist. ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ The term ‘repent’ can also mean ‘change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.’ That is a particularly powerful message at this time in history. So many people are looking for happiness in the world, but now so much has collapsed and many have been bitterly disappointed and left with a feeling that all is gone. However, the Lord is telling us to turn to him for happiness. It is only in God that we will find true happiness. The world will disappoint us; God will not. People will let us down, but God will not.


The sin of Adam and Eve was a very similar sin to what we see going on today. It involved three things: (1) rejecting the idea that they had to serve God, or listen to his commands; (2) that they could have everything they wanted on their terms, (3) that they could be like God themselves. That is very similar to what we see going on in our world right now and it is a real temptation. Why should we have to obey commandments? We don’t like being told we have to obey anyone and yet the word obey literally means ‘to listen intently’ (from the Latin, ‘ob audire’). And if you think about it, it says that Jesus was obedient to the Father. Jesus was equal to the Father, but Jesus was also obedient to him. We are being called to listen intently to what God tells us, to acknowledge that we are God’s creation and that we must obey—listen intently—to what He tells us if we are to find the path to happiness.


The most important preparation we can make for Christmas is the interior preparation, the change of heart, the confession of sins. And yes, most of us don’t want to have to confess our sins. We think we shouldn’t have to, but this is what God asks us to do and if God asks us to do it, it is for our benefit. Deciding that I don’t need to confess is saying, ‘God, I don’t need your gift and I don’t need to listen to what you ask of me.’ God has given us the gift of confession, through his priests, in order to help us and heal us. It is one of the sacraments of healing.


What a shame it would be to die and come before God and then realize that He had given us this gift of his forgiveness and we ignored it, telling ourselves we knew better. When we die we will be shown the good and bad we have done, except for the sins we have confessed, which are blotted out by the power of the Holy Spirit in confession. It is his gift to us.


The celebration of Christmas is meaningless if we skip the kind of preparation that God asks us to make and sadly for many people it has become meaningless. It doesn’t have to be meaningless, because it is the celebration of something very wonderful, the coming of God among us in the person of Jesus—the second person of the Holy Trinity—taking on human flesh, in order to sacrifice himself in atonement for our sins, so that we could go to heaven when we die. God created us for paradise. We lost it, by rejecting God’s word, but God won it back for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. No wonder the celebration of Christmas is such a great event.


As always, the Lord invites us to listen to him and follow him. He will never force us:

I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will come in and sit down to eat with him, and he with me. (Rev 3:20) 


Those words are from the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible and this message is repeated all through the Bible in different ways. The Lord wants to be at the centre of what we do, but we are the only ones who can allow that to happen.

Repent, for the kingdom of God is close at hand.’