A few years ago, I made a trip to Krakow and made a special trip to the Concentration Camps Auschwitz-Birkenau. The feeling as you went around the places and looked in horror at man’s inhumanity to man it felt like a place of little or no hope. In fact, one of the survivors said that God had forgotten this place and those who were held there. Amongst the corridor and cells there was one I particularly wanted to see and pray at. It was the cell of a Catholic Franciscan Priest Maximilian Kolbe. As we approached there was a candle in the cell. In this cell, he privately said Mass with the scraps of bread that he managed to get. He prayed with people around him and at the end he took the place of a married man with children and was killed instead of this other man. During this horrific human misery, he brought hope to people.
This idea of hope when all looks hopeless in a strong message in the readings today. In the first reading, today from Isaiah we get this ideal picture of what the Messiah would bring to the world. It is one where the lion sleeps with the lamb where there is peace and harmony among all creatures. The days of the messiah there will be justice and peace. It is an ideal picture. And it is a picture that when we look at the news and read the papers certainly has not happened or come about. And when we look at the world sometimes we can lose hope. Will it ever stop will there ever be peace on earth. It sometimes feels that there is no hope.
The message from St Paul tells us to keep our chin up and that scripture teaches us about what that hope is all about that although sometimes we feel like giving up that we should never lose hope in God love and mercy for us.
We need to be people of hope. We may not be called to go to extraordinary lengths as Fr Kolbe but we need sometimes to be that lone voice crying in the wilderness. By doing this we can help make other people’s paths straight. By doing this we are bringing that hope and joy to others. But, to do this, we need first to make our own paths straight.
During Advent we can attempt to start to make our paths straight. One thing that we can do this advent is go to the sacrament of reconciliation. To make our own relationship with God on the right path. It is one of those sacraments that we all find difficult to go too. It is hard to admit that we are wrong and that we need God’s help. Sometimes we may feel that the situation that we are in is hopeless and that we may feel that there is no point in coming to the sacrament but nothing is hopeless with the love and mercy of God. There is always hope with God there is always hope in his mercy. Pope Francis once said “God never tires of forgiving us we just get tired of asking for it.” The words of absolution in the sacrament are words of hope for us they are words that allow us to hear again and again the mercy of God. For me it is one of the most wonderful of sacraments and I have seen people who seem to have little or no hope when they come in leave with a wonderful sense of hope for the future. There burden that they have been carrying has been lifted. I have seen people who have been open to the possibility of that mercy and the forgiving grace of God. So, I urge you this Advent to make every opportunity to come to the sacrament of reconciliation. There is a advent service of reconciliation on Sunday 11th of December at St Wilfrid's Burgess hill at 3pm and St Pauls Haywards Heath on Monday 19th December.