This past Monday evening, about 160 of you gathered with 6 priests and celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For some it’s a practice that you exercise a couple times a year; for others maybe a little less often; and for others, maybe it had been a much longer while. But for almost all, there is a feeling of awkwardness isn’t there? Maybe shame is the source of apprehension; maybe not feeling the full sorrow one really wants to feel makes it difficult; maybe fear of reprimand adds to the anxiety…no matter what, as penitents, oftentimes we feel awkward approaching the sacrament. Yet, after the service was completed, several of you said how beautiful it was for you: a real source of peace and grace; a palpable sense of freedom and liberation; a sure source of comfort leading to renewed joy. And several confessors were so pleased that folks really approached the sacrament looking for forgiveness and a fresh start this Advent. What great spiritual gifts for us!
From this, we can see that although there may be an awkwardness, the decision to simply jump over it and have an encounter with the Lord pays off. Maybe another example will help: two weeks ago I was at the food market and ran into a parishioner that I hadn’t seen for a few months. Knowing she would be in an awkward position, I simply went up to her, gave a hug, and—in my usual style—just started yapping. Turns out, she was able to confide in me and share her situation a bit and, after sharing a few thoughts from my perspective, she was so grateful and happy she saw me. See, just by diffusing the awkwardness, or as I like to say “jump over it”, we were both free to have a meaningful encounter.
And in our gospel, we hear of another meaningful encounter that could’ve been quite awkward: the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Mary is a young teenager, an unwed virgin, yet she is with child. Although this could have been very awkward indeed, Mary must share the joy she has and she must also share the joy of Elizabeth and the child in her womb. Ignoring the awkward situations, Mary and Elizabeth, and the infants in their wombs were able to encounter each other and rejoice. And why not? Our second reading today tells us that we have each been consecrated by the will of Christ to bear him, possess him.
The Visitation that we heard about is only one of so many that would follow: each time we gather for Mass, the Liturgy of the Word is an annunciation and visitation; the Liturgy of the Eucharist is then Christ coming in us! As much as the Word of God may challenge us and make us awkward, still, to engage ourselves with Him will always be a continued source of blessing, if only we “jump over” the awkwardness and enter into an encounter with God in the Church.
In just a few days, I promise, the encounter will again be spectacular! A happy last days of Advent to each of you.