xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Peters: ‘We are sinners, but we are no longer slaves to sin’

Although winter is a dark, cold time of the year, Advent is a season of warmth and joy. While our world is full of pain and our lives are full of misery, Christ serves as an eternal spark of hope that lets us know that everything will be all right in the end. It is us, not Christ, who keeps us from recognizing this hope, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the day when the Church celebrates Mary’s special place among mankind, is held midway through the Advent season. As such, the feast prepares us in two important ways for the coming of Christ. First, it connects us to Christ through Mary. And, second, it focuses on the role of sin in our lives and how Christ conquers them.

Advertisement

In a recent service, Pope Francis spoke on this latter part, saying that there are too many “who think that there is no longer hope for them, that their faults are too many and too great and that God certainly has no time to waste on them.” He then reminds us of the role of hope in our lives and that “You, Mother, remind us that yes, we are sinners, but we are no longer slaves to sin.”

This is a key concept that permeates the fundamental beliefs of the Church, and it even serves as the central image at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. When one walks into the upper level of the Church, one can see that there is a mural of Christ at the North Apse. It is a massive piece of art, showing “Christ in Majesty” following his resurrection, and, from a distance, looks like he is both angry and commanding.

This version of Christ is an intimidating sight, especially to the sinner. Yet the closer one walks down the aisle of the Church towards the altar, the more the image begins to soften. If one is able to climb the stairs and come to the altar, they realize that the image is actually part optical illusion: Christ’s arms spread out in an angry manner are actually curved around the Church’s dome in a manner that looks like a parent with his arms open for a hug.

In a way, this image represents all of Christianity. We have offended God, the king of the universe, with our sinful ways, and we feel as if we can never be welcomed. However, like the Prodigal Son, our father is there waiting for us to return. The judgeful Christ is still a loving Christ, and it is we who are responsible for any distance between us.

When we go through this Advent season, we must keep these central ideas in mind in order to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming. Our sins are only a barrier to receiving His love if we refuse to seek His forgiveness. Now is a time to prepare ourselves, but there is never a wrong time to return.

Jeffrey Peters, a graduate of Catholic University with a doctorate, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at 17peters@cardinalmail.cua.edu.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement