Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (December 13, 2007)

Published December 13, 2007  | En Español

I was so happy to see our priests last Monday as they gathered for an Advent Day of Reflection at Lyke House. It was my first time being with them as a group since my surgery, and when I entered the chapel and saw the group of them listening to the retreat director, I was emotionally stirred to be with them again. I was very proud that so many of them made time in their calendars to pause during the Advent season and to reflect upon the spiritual meaning of this time of year for all of us.

Like all of you, this season brings our priests a long list of things that must be done during these brief weeks of Advent. However, there is nothing that any of us must accomplish that is as important as the preparation of our hearts for the Savior who is coming. The shopping, the cooking, the cards and decorations, the cleaning and the preparations are important in every family and in every home, but none of these responsibilities surpasses our need to realize that the Lord is coming into a world that needs His presence and the hope that He brings perhaps more so today than ever before in history.

Advent in Atlanta offers many opportunities to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation. Parishes throughout North Georgia are offering expanded occasions to receive the sacrament of Penance and to begin the Christmas season with a new heart. There are frequent Reconciliation services that bring many priests together to hear the confessions of our people. These services are an invitation for all of us to remember that the most important preparation that we need to complete is the preparation of the human heart.

Confession—as the saying goes—is good for the soul and even better for the heart. Each one of us knows that there are things in our lives for which we are truly sorry, which we wish had not occurred and that we long to have corrected. The sacrament of Reconciliation is the Church’s ministry of renewal for the human person. This sacrament comes from the Lord Himself and continues His mission of healing and forgiving in His name and through His authority. We priests are the privileged servants who offer this grace to the entire Church.

As our priests participated in the Advent Day of Reflection, I prayed that each one of them realized that we all need the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness in our own lives. In fact, it is that realization that we priests are also sinners that best prepares our hearts for the compassionate ministry of being confessors for our sisters and brothers.

When we priests realize the brokenness and the fragility of our own hearts, we then have the proper disposition needed to be worthy ministers of the Lord’s Mercy. I have long believed that the renewal of the sacrament of Reconciliation will ultimately be achieved only when we priests rediscover and renew the grace of the sacrament in our own lives.

Set aside some time in an already busy calendar for the sacrament of Penance during these closing days of Advent. It will allow you to welcome the Lord of Peace with an important perspective—the one that John the Baptist, the voice of Advent—calls the Church to at this time of year: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths!”