Preparing to receive Jesus

By | December 2, 2009

On this Second Sunday of Advent, the readings and prayers are still focused on the coming of Christ at the end of time. This week and next we hear of John the Baptist who “went through the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Even though we usually connect the theme of repentance with Lent and associate baptism with Easter, we actually encounter them throughout the liturgical year.

When we enter the church we dip our fingers into blessed water and make the Sign of the Cross as a reminder of our baptisms and a reinforcement of the sacrament’s meaning in our lives.

The waters of baptism symbolized the cleansing of our souls. A baby is cleansed of original sin which afflicts all of humanity. An older child or adult who is baptized is cleansed also of all the sins he or she may have committed in the past. Everyone emerges cleansed and purified, prepared to receive God into their souls and their lives. And isn’t that part of what Advent is about — preparing ourselves to receive Christ into our lives now and when he comes again?

The baptismal font, which can be placed at the main entrance to the church, reminds us that we enter the church through the sacrament of baptism. We may even hear the “living” or moving water as it falls into the font. We may even be able to use the water of the font to bless ourselves coming and going from church.

Because the Gloria is not used during this season the Penitential Rite may also be more visible during Advent. If the third form of the rite is used the words can remind us of the three-fold coming of Christ in the past (history), the present (mystery) and future (majesty). “Lord Jesus you came to gather the nations into the peace of God’s kingdom: Lord, have mercy. You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness: Christ have mercy. You will come in glory with salvation for your people: Lord, have mercy.”

This weekend we may also hear an invitation to a communal reconciliation service in  preparation for Christmas. Just as St. John invited the people to prepare for the kingdom close at hand through repentance, so we are invited to ask God to help us “open our hearts in welcome and remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy…” (opening prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent). As we receive the sacrament of reconciliation we are again cleansed and, during Advent, we ready our hearts to welcome Jesus anew.

Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.

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