As the world tries to catch the “CHRISTMAS SPIRIT”, malls are decorated and filled with Christmas shoppers. Christmas cards are in the process of being prepared, sent, and received. Christmas packages are being wrapped to be placed under the tree; children are getting more excited. We are hearing Christmas carols on the radio. Christmas parties are taking place, and the merchants are in their annual count-down of shopping days left till Christmas.

As the song goes: Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! All the world seems to get caught up in the spirit of the season. Yet this Holy Season calls us to something more than lights, trees, cards, parties, and presents.

So today the Church introduces us to the preaching of John The Baptist. John cries out from the pages of Scripture: “Reform your lives! The Kingdom of God is at hand!”

These words of John the Baptist warn us against sleeping our lives away – through spiritual laziness. His words are urgent. He is the Advent preacher announcing: “A baptism of repentance, conversion, and forgiveness of sin.” He is that herald’s voice in the desert, crying out “make ready the way of the Lord, clear a straight path for Him.”

John preached much and often, about the reality of sin, the need for us to repent of our sinfulness, and the need for a true conversion of lives. When John preached, the world was in terrible shape morally and politically; and do you know what, the world hasn’t gotten any better – in fact, it has gotten worse.

The message of John the Baptist then is still vitally important for us today. John dramatically reminds each of us that we cannot afford to put God on the back burner. We have to realize now, that our words and actions of each day will have an effect on where we will spend eternity.

Advent is meant to be a time of getting ready – of making a straight path for the coming of Jesus. There is no better way to make this preparation – to catch the real “spirit of Christmas – than by responding to the Holy Spirit prompting and preparing ourselves spiritually for a deeper relationship with God in our lives.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, I believe that the Spirit is calling us to look at our lives as we are living them and get our moral priorities in order – and to turn our lives around so radically, that our deepest longing, our heartfelt desire, and our number one priority will be to be in a serious relationship with Jesus Christ.

Advent is calling us to true repentance and deeper conversion – to the Lord. So often we pay lip service to the Lord as we brush Him aside and rid ourselves of His moral and theological teachings.

The second reading from the hand of St. Paul, the great preacher of the apostolic Church, speaks of the gift of Faith that was given to each of us at Baptism. He speaks of our need to “discern what is of value so that we may be pure and blameless in God’s sight.”

The first reading from the prophet Baruch, another Advent personality, confirms the importance of being blameless in God’s sight, by “taking off our robes of mourning and misery and putting on the splendor of glory.” The practical way to achieve this state is to experience the healing power of the Sacrament of Confession.

Advent is the path to the crib of Christ, the path that begins “our personal pilgrimage to the House of God our Father”, the path leading to Bethlehem passes through the Sacrament of Confession. Receive the Sacrament of Confession before Christmas! The peace and harmony spoken of by Baruch, John the Baptist, Paul and Jesus will come to us from the recognition that God has forgiven our sins through the Sacrament of Confession. Through this Sacrament, our path to God, which we have so often cluttered by sin is made straight. This Advent Season, Don’t miss the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confession!

In all the colors and glitter of Advent and Christmas, both religious and secular, God is trying to catch our attention. Respond to the call of John the Baptist, make straight the path to Bethlehem. When you look at the world, as confused as it is today, don’t you realize that nothing will change in our own individual lives, in our families, in our parishes, and in our world, until all of us get our priorities straight and we put God and morality first in our lives. THAT IS OUR ADVENT CALL!