“What do you want for Christmas?” is a question asked often enough. It is asked by those, who, in virtue of their love for us, want to please us. But what about God? What is the greatest good He desires for us for Christmas?
The answer is profound. The goodness God desires for us is unlimited because it is nothing other than the happiness which is found in Himself. This happiness is attainable by receiving the gift of His own Son, for when Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17), God the Father is able to see in us what He beholds in His dearly Beloved Son. Consequently, we can experience in God the Father what Jesus Himself beholds in Him! We cannot, therefore, attain the good God wants for us on our own.
The best way to remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy is the sacrament of reconciliation. We know from our own experience that it is not easy to acknowledge our faults. Consider some of the following reasons why being open can be difficult:
Mistaken beliefs: Sometimes we can think that we are the only one in the world who sins.
Embarrassment: No explanation is required on this one. We all feel it.
Attachments: Even though we want to be liberated from bad habits, it takes humility to ask for help.
Fear: We can be afraid that we will be misunderstood, that is, that we will misrepresent the good in us if we talk about our weaknesses and that we will thereby be judged unfairly; that the priest will look down on us.
You would not be troubled so much by these thoughts and feelings if you knew that priests will not look down on you or think of you poorly. In fact, opening your soul to a priest only serves to deeply humble him!
Speaking from my own experience, if you only knew just how much the priest is humbled by the amount of trust and confidence invested in him as a spiritual father, you would not be so anxious. The priest is far more conscious of Christ’s presence than your own because he is deeply aware of his own unworthiness to represent Him through the sacrament of the priesthood.
He is deeply humbled and moved in a spirit of awe and reverence because the confidence invested in him immediately puts him in touch with Christ. He is aware that Christ is present in his poor humanity in that graced moment, like a treasure in an earthenware vessel (2 Cor 4:7).
The priest can relate to your own need for God’s mercy because he is by no means ‘immune’ to temptation and sin. You can thereby have every confidence that he can readily identify himself with your longing for God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness and the peace and consolation that comes from being reunited to Christ.
So, confiding in a priest does not make him look down on anyone, it only makes him look up – up to Christ – and might I add, up to the penitents themselves, for their humble sincerity is a powerful manifestation of their own love for Christ.
Has it been a long time since you received this sacrament? A common tendency is to wait until you overcome the difficulty you have been struggling with before you talk to a priest about it. This is an old trick of the enemy. This way, he makes you feel that a priest has nothing new to tell you because he leads you to think, “Hey, after all, you know your own struggles better than anyone else.” St John Vianney knew this was not true because he said: “The reason why we cannot keep our good resolutions is that we count too much on ourselves.”
The sacrament of reconciliation is a means by which the assistance we receive is that of Christ Himself, for He is the One whom we encounter in the sacraments. He empties in order to fill. And what He fills us with is nothing other than the goodness of Himself.
It is for this reason that the Church reminds us during Advent to have recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation.
There is no better way to prepare for the joy God wants to give you this Christmas.
This article was first published on 4 December, 2014.