Advent is a call for conversion and penance

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THE gospel of the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A, celebrated this year on December 4, presents us with these words of St. John the Baptist that have to be taken seriously: “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3,1)

Conversion and penance are actually what we have to do all the time. It’s quite clear that we need it, given our weakened, wounded and sinful condition in the entirety of our earthly sojourn. But it has its more intense moments, one of which is precisely the period of Advent.

The spirit of conversion and penance is not actually something that is dark, negative, painful, etc. It’s not something we should run away from. In fact, it’s not something that we should just bear and tolerate since we cannot avoid it.

We need to develop and live this spirit of continuing conversion and penance because it is clear that sin continues to dominate us in this life. In fact, it is quite clear that things are getting worse. There are now powerful and well-established structures of sin in our midst before which we are simply an easy prey.

The networks of corruption, pornography, godless and worldly ideologies, etc. are proliferating, taking advantage of the powerful technologies and the easy vulnerability of many people, especially the young ones, who are not yet prepared to properly handle these networks.

We know that the sense of sin itself is largely disappearing. Pope Francis and the previous Popes have pointed that out and are warning us of this condition. They are strongly encouraging us to truly develop the spirit of conversion and penance.

Advent is indeed a time to give special attention to our conscience, if only to clean, polish and fine-tune it, so it can more correctly and punctually hear the voice of God who is the only one to tell us what is truly right and wrong, moral and immoral, etc., in these very confusing times.

This spirit of continuing conversion and penance can only be developed if we truly have the love that comes from God. With this love, we will realize that there is no limit to our need for conversion and penance. Love will continue to make new demands on us, because life itself will also make new challenges and trials on us. Let’s never forget that our life will always be some kind of warfare.

With every conversion we make, we get closer to God, we grow in his divine wisdom and goodness. No doubt, we get to gain a lot more than what we seem to lose every time we make a conversion.

We should put our faith in this personal testimony of St. Paul: “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3,7-8)

The mark of true saints is precisely this hunger and thirst for repentance and conversion. Whatever good they did humbled them instead of leaving them proud. They knew who and what was behind all the accomplishments they made, and were more keenly aware of their inadequacies, their mistakes, faults, infidelities, etc.

It’s not that they led a miserable life of having a dark outlook in life and a negative attitude toward their own selves. They were a happy lot, whose joy sprang from their faithful union with God, their father, but also aware of their total dependence on God.