Today we hear once again the impatient voice of John the Baptist urging us to change so that we may be worthy to receive the Lord. Crooked ways must be made straight; bad habits need to be corrected; conversion must continue. God very much wants to come to us and we also want to receive Him, but it is usually on our own terms. We wish to remain attached to habits and attitudes which are unworthy of us and hurtful of others. Like St. Augustine, we are inclined to say, “Change me, Lord….but not yet.” An unqualified reception of the Lord requires repentance, not just remorse. Remorse is simply a temporary regret about an unworthy behavior, which lasts a very short time, and then we revert to our old habits. By contrast, repentance means that we have found something better and more promising than our sinfulness – the love and goodness of God. If we could only realize how much God loves us, we would be able to resist every temptation. We make this discovery primarily through earnest prayer and a deep yearning to become better persons. Make room, then, in our hearts for the love of God, not as a theoretical fact or someone else’s word, but in our own experience.
Today is the start of the Advent season, when we begin our yearly pilgrimage through the events of our history of salvation, starting with the preparation for the birthday celebration of Jesus and ending with the reflection on His glorious second coming as Judge at the end of the world. We are invited to meditate on Jesus’ first coming in history as a baby in Bethlehem, His daily coming into our lives in mystery through the sacraments, through the Bible and through the worshipping community; and finally His second coming at the end of the world to reward the just and punish the wicked. We see the traditional signs of Advent in our church: violet vestments and hangings and the Advent wreath. These remind us to prepare for the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives, thus enabling Him to radiate His love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness around us.
Even though the Bible clearly presents Jesus as King, it wasn’t until 1925 that the Church, though Pope Pius XI, established the feast of Christ the King in order to bring Christ, His rule and Christian values back into the lives of Christians, into society and into politics. This was in response to the totalitarian regimes that emerged in the early 20th century that claimed absolute power over their citizens and scoffed at the rule of God in guiding people’s lives. Highest authority belongs to God, not to the state. Jesus is God, the King over all kings. St. Paul states in the 2nd reading that all things were created through Jesus and for Him. He is before (above) all things…preeminent. If a government overreaches itself, if it demands submission that we cannot give, always remember that Jesus is the Supreme King. An edifying example of this is Blessed Fr. Miguel Pro, who was executed in 1927. A totalitarian regime gained control of Mexico that tried to suppress the Church. Many Christians courageously took up the cry, “Viva Cristo Rey” (“Long Live Christ the King”) and called themselves Cristeros. Fr. Pro ministered to these persecuted Christians until he was arrested and sentenced to public execution. When execution time came, he knelt down holding a crucifix. After praying he stood up, held the crucifix high and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey”. It was then that the soldiers hot him.