Homecoming is the central theme of today's Scripture readings. All of them focus on getting ready for a homecoming by true repentance, reparation and renewal of our lives. In the reading from Isaiah, God gives the assurance to the Israelites that their Babylonian captivity will end soon and they will be coming home as free people. Israel's sons and daughters are forgiven and their exile is over because of God's love God forgives them even though they are undeserving. God is willing to forgive each of us whenever we ask to be forgiven even though we too are most likely undeserving.

In the reading from 2 Peter we are assured that God wants us to turn from sin and be forgiven because God doesn't want anyone to be lost.

In our gospel John the Baptist instructs everyone to "Turn back to God and be baptized and our sins will be forgiven." John's baptism is essentially the Jewish form of our Sacrament of Reconciliation which you received earlier in this Mass. The Jewish baptism involves three steps. Step one is the admission of a person's sins to themselves. Step two includes confessing to that person or persons that we had wronged and step three is confessing that we have sinned to God knowing that an all forgiving God will say, "I forgive you." God wants each of us to come to him now in Advent after doing a bit of housecleaning of our spiritual self and rededicating ourselves to be an even better apostle of Jesus by establishing an improved base for our individual growth and for that on which others can build upon. This will establish a base similar to that of Orville and Wilbur Wright provided for air travel. Their first successful flight was a mere 120 feet and look at what is possible now. Another parallel is provided by Dr. Christian Barnard, the surgeon who performed the 1st successful heart transplant. That 1st patient survived over a year and 1/2 and now heart transplants are commonplace. Each of them, The Wright Brothers and Dr. Christian Barnard needed to do significant work to establish the base on which others could build upon. That work included a lot of corrections along the way in order for them to reach their first success.

In a similar way our spiritual journey requires corrections along the way and God calls you and me to establish an improved base upon which we and others can build an ever improving spiritual life. The instrument which God provides for us to make the necessary corrections is the one which he provided via following the instructions of John the Baptist, Turn back to God and be baptized. The baptism which John provided was one of repentance which is essentially the same as our Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we receive that Sacrament worthily God forgives our sins. As I mentioned that Rite required that we first admit our sins to ourselves, then confess to the person or persons we have wronged and finally ask God for forgiveness knowing that God will say "I forgive you." Our Sacrament of Reconciliation requires the first and third step but doesn't include the most difficult of the three steps contained in the Jewish Rite, confessing to the person we have wronged. Apologies are difficult but they most often provide improved relationships with the person we have wronged as well as with God Almighty.

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