Gospel – Matthew 3:1-12: John the Baptist calls for true repentance.
“St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way” (Catechism paragraph 523).
As today’s Gospel makes clear, repentance is an essential part of preparing for the Lord’s coming. John confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees, who didn’t offer a sign of sincere repentance. John’s questioning of their intentions is likewise a challenge to each one of us.
The “call to conversion and penance” aims first and foremost at “the conversion of the heart, interior conversion.” Without this, such penances [as fasting or receiving ashes] remain sterile and false” (1430). Real repentance involves contrition, or “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (1451).
The true penitents who came to John for baptism showed contrition by acknowledging their sins, which St. Basil the Great (d. 379) viewed as a prototype of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
St. Jerome (d. 419/420) used an analogy from the medical field to convey what happens in Confession: “If the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know” (quoted in 1456).
Let us prepare for our celebration of Christmas by making a good confession.
Question for reflection: What faults and failings should I bring before the Lord in a spirit of repentance?