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Today’s Gospel introduces us to the last of the prophets, Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel sees him fulfilling the Isaian prophecy in our First Reading to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John himself admits that One is to follow who is “mightier” that he and whose baptism will replace John’s baptism. This One is Jesus, the Lord. It is his first coming into the world that we are preparing to celebrate.

Last weekend’s readings exhorted us to be watchful and alert for the Lord to come again. We are to do so with the same longing and confidence with which the Jews awaited the coming of the Messiah, the fulfillment of many prophecies. Today’s passage from Isaiah speaks of God coming to his people to bring comfort and to treat them with tenderness. He proclaims that the guilt of his people is expiated and their punishment for sin is to come to an end. We see this expiation accomplished in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. What more could God do for us? Now, how are we to respond to this gift?

Saint Paul teaches in the Second Reading that if there is any perceived “delay” in Christ’s return, it is because God is patient with us, giving us every opportunity for repentance. The expiation of sin is not a license for reckless abandon, but entails a responsibility to choose to live virtuously so we may enjoy its rewards. Hence Saint Paul’s advice that we “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”

The sacrament of penance is an important part of our Advent preparation for a worthy celebration of Christmas. Remember to take time to celebrate this sacrament. The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be traveling to the various parishes for penance services this week. Ours will be at St. Charles this Monday, December 11, at 7:00 PM. Others will be at Holy Ghost this Sunday, December 10, at 3:00 PM; at Notre Dame on Tuesday, December 12, at 6:00 PM; and at St. Paul in Bloomer on Sunday, December 17, at 6:00 PM. You are welcome to go wherever it fits your schedule.

Coming soon! The La Crosse Diocese, along with the Green Bay Diocese, was founded by Blessed Pope Pius IX on March 3, 1868. We will be marking this anniversary throughout the diocese next year. Locally Bishop Callahan will be visiting the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire Deaneries in August. A sesquicentennial book will soon be available for purchase at $33.00 per copy. It is a marvelous book that contains a history of the diocese and of all our bishops, and photographs and brief histories of all our parishes. The book is full of many inserts that also make it special. It is a coffee-table type book that will also make a great gift. You will be very impressed once you see it.

Pray the rosary this week for the young people from our parishes who made their first confession on Saturday, December 9. Pray also for people who have abandoned the practice of the faith, that they may respond to God’s grace, come to the sacrament of penance and return to the regular celebration of the Eucharist.

May God bless his people with peace.

Monsignor Gorman