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People are making all sorts of preparations to gear up for the holidays. Living in post-Christian Western civilization, this time of year is a period of preparation and anticipation, for family get-togethers, traveling, dinners, lit decorations and generic thankfulness.
Most Catholics hear all about Advent, but it takes a back seat to all the fuss that happens while people prepare for the socially acceptable version of the "holiday season." While we hear readings at Mass with the Prophet Isaiah talking about the coming of Israel's long-awaited Redeemer, we already have our Christmas trees up; we crank up the Christmas music and attend parties dressed in ugly holiday sweaters. To many Catholics, Advent is just "a thing talked about during church."
But Holy Mother Church has given us this time of preparation for a reason, and the use of the sacrament of confession is essential to make ourselves ready.
What do we do when we are expecting a guest in our homes? If we have the slightest respect for our guest, we will clean and scour the house of all dirt and disorder. If it's a highly esteemed guest, maybe we might even think our little house unworthy of such a visitor?
Although worldlings see the Catholic Church as stern and judgmental, it is in fact the Church of second chances — and third, and fourth, and more. In fact, the Church exists because God has mercy. It's the tool and structure of God's redemption on earth. The Church distributes the mercy Jesus Christ won for humanity on the Cross. Confession is an opportunity for us to bring all our sins and all our misery to Jesus Christ Himself through his priests.
There's a cold-hard Catholic truth we need to know and understand: God does not need us. The creation of the world is the fruit of divine love — it's sheer goodness on God's part.
Mercy is one of God's greatest attributes. Divine mercy is God loving humankind more than it deserves. God continues to love us even though we've sinned against Him. He chooses to reconcile us to Himself, lessening and even removing the punishment we have coming to us because of our sins.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost the life of God in their souls, separating themselves and their children from God. All people, with the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are born in a state of separation from God — that's the state of original sin. In strict justice, God could have abandoned the human race until the end of time without any human attaining or enjoying the Beatific Vision.
But not only was it Adam and Eve who sinned; we all sin constantly. Let's go further and say that our personal sins aren't just necessarily venial sins; those would be enough in strict justice to damn us to Hell forever. Some of us have committed mortal sins on top of mortal sins for years.
Does God owe anyone a continuing love after a person has sinned gravely? We're in oceans of sin — incomprehensible amounts of sin — and we can't get ourselves out. It's not just the whole human race but each and every one of us individually.
But God knows poor, sinful humanity would drown in its sins. So in His love He gave His Law to the chosen people, the Hebrews, and freed them from their enemies. In time, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on a human nature and was born in the flesh. Although He was innocent, He took the punishment of our sins on Himself and died for us on the Cross. That's what He came here for, and His business was deadly serious.
One reason God allowed us to sin is that we might love him more than if we had never sinned. Every creature must love God — but a sinner must, in justice, love God more because of the mercy shown toward him.
As sinners we are duty-bound to love God more constantly, more generously, more wholeheartedly, more earnestly and more seriously. We are to use our free will in choosing to love God. That's the justice we owe God.
Advent is the time for us to prepare in humility, contrition and penance for the commemoration of the first coming of our Savior on earth at Christmas. The sacrament of confession is our opportunity to clean the house of our souls so that we will be spotless and ready to receive Him.