Mark 1:1-8
Receive Christ With Joy by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  A voice of one crying out in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  John was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist.  He fed on locusts and wild honey.  And this is what he proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

When was the first time that you received Christ with joy?  Our Christian faith is rooted in the fact that God chooses to draw close to us, to dwell among us and to make Himself available to us in concrete ways.  In our Opening Prayer for Mass on this Second Sunday of Advent, we pray, “Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy.”  To receive Christ with joy is a perfect theme to shape our Advent this year.

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ into our world.  Traditionally, there are three “comings” that we focus on during this holy season of anticipation: the second coming at the end of time, the first coming in Bethlehem 2,o000 years ago, and the coming of Christ into our own hearts and lives today.

We spend time pondering the mystery of the first two in order to welcome Christ more profoundly today.  Our goal in Advent is to welcome Jesus Christ with all humility, reverence and joy because He stoops down from heaven and comes to us with great love and tenderness.

How do we prepare to welcome Our Lord?  I think that we can learn plenty from the usual process of welcoming an expected guest to our house for the holidays.  Normally, we clean up all the clutter, throw things away, file papers, store stud in proper places.  I think that we need to look honestly at the “stuff’ that clutters up our lives, gets in the way of joyful living and keeps us from  being truly free.

Part of the clutter is simply junk.  We get caught up in giving our time and attention to things that are not important.  Most of these things are not bad or sinful per se, but they clutter up our lives and keep us from having time for the things that are more important like prayer, spending time with family, serving a needy neighbor, edifying reading.  Perhaps they become sinful because we give them greater import than they should have in our lives.  What junk do I need to clean out from my life so that I can welcome Christ with joy this Advent?

On the other hand, some of the mess that we need to clean up is our sins.  The Church always invites us during Advent to spend some time with John the Baptist.  It makes plenty of sense since John was the one that God sent as the prophet of the Most High, “the voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

John’s main task was to proclaim a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount provide a terrific guide to examine our conscience and see where we wandered from the path laid out by Christ for His disciples.

If you are looking for a different twist to your usually efforts to prepare for confession, consider two options.  Ponder (or actually ask) what the members of your family sincerely think you should repent of this December in preparation for Christmas.  Secondly, think of a few people who get on your nerves and why they do.  Chances are good that you share some of their faults or sins.  It’s a funny thing about human beings, we tend to pick out and focus on the faults in others that we often share with them. 

A final observation about welcoming a special guest: we usually rise to the occasion and welcome them with great joy.  We are happy to be with them.  We love to be in their presence, hear their voice, enjoy a good laugh, listen to what is on their hearts and soak in their goodness.

This Advent, let’s pray for the grace to welcome Christ into our hearts and homes.  A very special Guest is coming.  Let us dedicate ourselves to cleaning out the clutter of our lives, repenting of our sins with renewed vigor and receiving Christ with joy.

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