We are told in this Sunday’s Gospel that John the Baptist “went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. The concepts of repentance and sin are not popular in our world today. Seldom are we encouraged to examine our conscience because guilt is generally regarded as negative and useless, a feeling that should be ignored. But the Church teaches that to repent is a wonderful and positive thing because it heals us and makes whole again our relationship with God and our neighbours.

St Therese of Lisieux puts it this way: “A child who has sinned throws himself into his father’s arms, telling him that he is sorry to have hurt him, that he loves him … then, if that child asks his father to punish him with a kiss, I don’t think the happy father could harden his heart against his child’s filial trust, knowing his sincerity and love.”

As we begin the second week of Advent, let us experience the joy of repentance. Let us acknowledge that we are wounded by sin and strive to be holy. Holiness does not mean being perfect, but it is knowing that when we make mistakes, we have the power to change and can always return to the Father.

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