Some people accuse Catholics of thinking that we are saved by our good works. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we profess openly that Jesus died to save all. His death brought about our salvation, but we are free to reject Him. Good works, rather than a means of salvation, are a sign of faith and repentance. This is clearly stated in today's Gospel by John the Baptist, when he demands that the Pharisees and Sadducees "produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance." (Mt. 3:8).
He goes on to note that whatever does not bear good fruit should be cut down. It got me to thinking about my own life. There are so many things that occupy my time and attention that really do not produce anything good. And this takes away from the good things that I could be doing. If Advent is a time top prepare for the coming of the Lord in glory, how can I prune away the things that do not bring life? Whether it is gossip, mindless TV, web browsing, etc., I need to take a close look and see if it is bearing good fruit and can remain, or is draining life out of me and should be cut away.
Most people see Advent as a time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Advent, I hope we will all be able to approach the Sacrament with a determination that it will not end with the confession of our sins, but will be the means by which we cut away the destructive things that consume my time and energy. In this way, I will be better able to devote attention to those things which will bring faith, hope and love to the world.