Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’ exclaimed John the Baptist in today's gospel reading from the gospel of Saint Matthew 3:1-2. My dear friends in Christ, these words of John the Baptist should stir us up to ask ourselves the following questions - are we repenting because the kingdom of God is at hand? How are we preparing for the way of the Lord? How are we making His paths straight?

On the First Sunday of Advent we talked about using three practices to prepare ourselves for the the coming of Christ this Advent season. These practices were - Prayer, Mortification and Examination of Conscience. The repentance called for by John the Baptist starts with an Examination of Conscience. What are those sins that destroys our relationship with God? We have to find out what these sins are and start preparing the way of the Lord and making His paths straight through prayer and by mortifying our bodies to prepare for His coming. These practices my dear friends are very important and essential in helping us prepare to welcome Jesus into our lives and world this Christmas season but they are not too easily attained. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans 15:4-9, today’s second reading, informs us of two important virtues that would help us utilize these practices of Prayer, Mortification and Examination of Conscience in preparation for the coming of Christ this Advent season. St. Paul emphasizes 'that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.' So how does endurance and encouragement help us prepare for the coming of Christ?Since Endurance is the power to withstand, to suffer or to undergo something challenging, we need to continue working hard in our spiritual lives this Advent season. Hence, we need to pray more often and devoutly; we need to mortify ourselves all the more no matter how challenging it is because it is for a greater good; and lastly, we need to have an examination of conscience to identify our sins, repent of them and figure our ways to make changes in them so as to repent and prepare the way of the Lord as emphasized by John the Baptist in our gospel reading today.

Encouragement means to inspire with courage or hope, an attempt to persuade or to spur on. So with encouragement, we can inspire ourselves with courage or hope to keep on pushing harder everyday to come closer to God. We need to persuade and spur ourselves to do better as Catholic Christians as we answer our call to discipleship.

My dear brothers and sisters, let us repent for the kingdom of God is at hand and prepare the way of the Lord this Advent season through the practices of Prayer, Mortification and Examination of Conscience in our daily lives supported by endurance and encouragement.