'The Light Is On For You' this Advent

This Advent, on Wednesday Dec. 15 and Wednesday Dec. 22, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston are going to be opening every church and chapel to welcome back Catholics to the Sacrament of Confession. This effort continues The Light is On For You initiative launched this past Lent.

During Advent, one of the things we celebrate and prepare for is the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. We ready ourselves for the arrival of this baby who came into the world not just to live, but to die for you and for me, to forgive our sins, and to offer to us the possibility of living with him forever and ever. That forgiveness is not something we could ever earn by our own prayers or work; it is a forgiveness that is given to us freely by God.

During Advent we also prepare for the coming again of Jesus in glory, when he comes on the clouds to be our judge. We hear that wonderful Scripture reading that tells us to be watchful because do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will be coming back. We hear that admonition over and over again: be vigilant, be watchful, be waiting, because he's going to come, and we do not know the day or the hour. We want to be prepared. Making a good confession regularly is one of the many steps we can take to try to be ready.

I don't know about you, but I love watching the television on Christmas Eve. We see all those last minute shoppers running around. I always think to myself, "What are they doing? Christmas isn't a surprise. We know it was going to take place on Dec. 25!"

I can never figure out why so many people wait for the last minute, shopping in such a hectic fashion. I want to ask them, "Was this a surprise? Didn't you know we were going to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25?" I'd also like to tell them "By the way, next year, we're going to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, too. You have an extra 365 days to get ready!" But I'll bet that even with that warning, most of us will not be ready. We'll still be running around at that last minute.

Here's one of those messages that Advent always has for me. If we're not ready when we know the date and time -- like the date and time for Christmas -- what makes us think we'll be ready for something that we don't know the day and time: when the Lord returns on the clouds to be our judge?

The Light Is On For You initiative, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are gifts this Advent to all those who will join in our celebration of Christmas and those who want to experience a deeper relationship with the Savior given to the world on that first Christmas.

Confession gives us a chance to start over, to hit the reset button of our lives. It shows how forgiving and kind our God is and it helps us grow in compassion and love for others. Come to confession to receive God's mercy, for peace of mind, to deepen your friendship with Jesus, to receive spiritual healing, to increase your sense of joy, and to experience Christ's saving grace.

Perhaps you say that it's been too long or that God couldn't possibly forgive you. Well, you're wrong. God's love for you is greater than all the sins you've committed or could commit. Now is the time to come and have God take away the burdens of sin and guilt that can so often weigh us down.

Jesus came to the world, at Christmas, to save each one of us. He loves you so much and wants to help you now with whatever issues you face. He wants to fill you with joy, love and freedom. He wants you to know that light always triumphs over darkness.

Every priest in every church and chapel in the Archdiocese of Boston will be waiting to welcome you this Advent. Please see to it that we are busy!

Please visit TheLightIsOnForYou.org to learn more. God bless you.

Bishop Robert Hennessey is the auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese's Central Region and the episcopal liaison for The Light Is On For You initiative.