Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Gospel of Mark 1:1-8
Repentance . . . A Struggle? . . . Normal!

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 10 December 2017

Three days ago, in the Straits Times, a hawker, Dominic Neo told a cab driver that he should give up his job, if he did not know the way to a destination.  When this went viral in social media, many netizens were urging people to boycott his hawker’s stall, which happens to be well known, in New Upper Changi Road.  Moreover, Dominic confessed, “A friend scolded me very fiercely and I realised it is my fault and I am very remorseful about it.”  Dominic apologised to the cab driver and the public; he said that he had drunk a few beers before boarding the taxi that night.

And so, to show his remorse, Dominic is offering the first 100 taxi drivers a plate of free Char Kway Teow (fried noodles), and as for the cab driver he offended, he is willing to offer him a lifetime of free Char Kway Teow. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not know whether Dominic, the hawker is a Christian or not, but what we do know is that when we do wrong, the right thing to do is to be humble enough to make up and reconcile with the people we have offended, or hurt or caused harm.  It is only with such deeds of remorsefulness, restitution and repentance, like Dominic can we say that we are also at peace with ourselves and with God. 

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist proclaimed that for us to be receptive to God’s forgiveness and blessings, we need to be repentant for our sins.  In today’s Second Reading, as St Peter acknowledges our human weaknesses and sinfulness, he adds that, “Since everything is coming to an end, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come . . . and while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that He will find you at peace.”  However, we all know that to live a holy and saintly live is never straightforward and easy as they are filled with painful challenges.

There was once a young man, David, who owned a very beautiful house with ten rooms.  One day, David heard a gentle tap on the door.  He opened the door, only to find it was the Lord Jesus. Jesus said to him, “David, can I come in?” David was so excited and overjoyed and said, “Of course, My Lord, you are most welcome to stay with me as long as you wish.”  So, David dashed upstairs and offered Jesus the “biggest and best” room in the house.  Jesus thanked David for being so generous and hospitable. 

The next morning, there was a loud and hasty knock at the door.  David was taken aback at who would knock so impatiently.  When he opened the door, before him was Satan, the chief of the devils.  David immediately shouted “Go away, Satan, you cannot come in.  You are just plain evil.”  However, Satan refused and fought back and tried to enter David’s home.  In the tussle, David felt much temptations and almost gave in to Satan.  However, he fought on fiercely for some hours until Satan gave up and left. 

Feeling somewhat exhausted, David pulled himself upstairs and knocked on the room door of Jesus and said, “Lord, did you not know that I was wrestling with Satan who wanted to come in and stay with us?  Why did you not come to my rescue?  Jesus answered, “My friend, the nine rooms of this home belongs to you, I only have one room.  So, it is you who should decide whether to let Satan in or not.  David felt bad and said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s unfair that I have nine rooms and you only have one.  So, from now on you take the five rooms upstairs and I take the five downstairs.  So, we share this home equally. 

Feeling pleased with his offer, David went to his room.  The next morning, there was another knock.  Again, he found Satan trying to enter the home.  So, like before he fought fiercely until Satan gave up.  Even as David felt exhausted, he went to ask Jesus, “Lord, we share equally all the rooms in this house, why is it that you did not help me, when Satan tried to get in?” 

To this Jesus replied, “My child, even if you give me the ten rooms of your house to occupy, all the ten rooms still belong to you, and I am still merely living in your house, and not you living in my house.  David, suddenly knew the point at which Jesus was saying.  So, he passed all the keys of his home to Jesus and said, “Lord, from now on, I am going to live in Your home.”  Jesus smiled at David and accepted the keys.

To David’s great surprise, next morning, Satan again knocked at the door to try to come in.  As he was about to open the door, he realised that as he is no longer the Master of the house, he should let Jesus, the Master open the door.  Rightly so, Jesus went and opened the door.  David, hid behind Jesus when He opened the door.  When Satan saw Jesus he said, “Oh, it’s you Jesus, I have come to the wrong house.”  And, left immediately. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, like David in this story, many of us are good people, trying to be better.  Many of us too want to “repent of our sins and live a holy and saintly life.  That is why when we are tempted by Satan and the evils of this world, like David, we wrestle with the evils and fight to remain faithful to God.  This is so because we know in our conscience that the temptations and evils of Satan will only bring greater sufferings and worsen broken relationships and hardships of our lives.  Satan and the evils of this world can never help us improve the quality of our lives. 

Even as we know all of these cunning ways of Satan, if we reflect on our lives, I believe we could still say that probably while many of us here desire to have Jesus be Master of our lives, yet at the same time, we still struggle at not wanting to let go fully of our lives to Him.  And so, we end up letting Jesus be the Master of nine of the ten rooms we have and for this one room that we have not surrendered to Jesus, we put up a sign, “No Entry without Permission.”  Why do we do this? 

And so, it seems that for many of us somehow still want to hold on to certain things and also keep certain secrets of our hearts and not want or not yet ready for Jesus to enter to see what we have in this room of our hearts.  And, this is because, we still want to continue to hold on to these attachments, addictions and attitudes in our lives, including certain sinful secrets and habits in our lives, even though these continue to cause much hurts, divisions and destructions in our lives and to our loved ones.

You and I know, that the only way to live a meaningful and fulfilling life is to live a wholesome and Christ-like life.  However, for many of us, the reality remains that we only allow Jesus to be our guest, instead of letting Him be the Master of our hearts and homes.  While this seems inconsistent, St Paul himself in his letter to the Romans (7:15-16) confesses, “I cannot understand my own behaviour.  I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate.”

And so, my sisters and brothers in Christ, as we acknowledge the reality of the inner struggles we experience in trying to live a more wholesome and Christ-like life, let us draw consolation from today’s Gospel, that our TRUE HOPE lies in the person of JESUS who is Our Lord and Saviour.  In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist precisely proclaims and affirms Jesus as, “He is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the straps of His sandals.  I have Baptised you with water, but, He will Baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”  John the Baptist’s Baptism is a “baptism of repentance, through water, for the forgiveness of sins.”  Such, repentance disposes us and opens our hearts to receive “divine forgiveness.” 

However, as for the Baptism of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, as the Messiah, the person receiving this Baptism, will have a total reform in his/her life; in Greek, metanoia.  In other words, this means that when we are Baptised in Jesus’ Spirit, we are not only transformed totally into being a son or daughter of God our Father. Indeed, we are also totally renewed in every aspects of our lives; we are given the graces to adopt a new way of thinking and living; a living that is centred on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. 

And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remind ourselves, as I conclude, that you and I during this Advent Season must dare to believe in this truth and today renew our faith that Jesus’ Spirit who lives in our hearts will help us overcome the temptations of our lives, and give us the graces and wisdom to let Jesus be the Master of our hearts, homes and lives. 

Let us then pray to Jesus for the strength to live this WISDOM to let go of the attachments that we know will often lead us to a “self-centred” and sinful way of living that we know would cause much pain, division and destruction in relationships.  The wisdom of today’s Gospel, of the message of St John the Baptist to us today then is to pray for the graces to let Jesus give us the wisdom to let Him be the Master of our hearts, homes and lives. 

When we allow Jesus to take over, we will then find the true graces of repentance and then experience the fruits of the peace of Jesus during this Advent season.

Story Adapted from: Reinhard Bonnke; www.findshepherd.com/the-story-of-ten-rooms.html

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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