Advent and Repeated Sins
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
The season of Advent brings with it a number of familiar practices: Advent calendars and wreaths, purple and rose colored vestments, and decorations in preparation for Christmas, to name a few. Another common practice is to attend a penance service or go to confession during Advent. 
Obviously, with the ongoing concerns over the pandemic, confession this year may both look and feel very different than in the past. Nevertheless, if we have the opportunity and are able to do it safely, it remains a good spiritual practice, and one in keeping with the spirit of preparation which so marks this season. 
But talk of going to confession has a tendency to bring up questions about it. One has to do with repeated sins. Each of us has our own particular sins that we tend to struggle with over and over again. For some, this might mean a nearly lifelong struggle with certain sins. Others may struggle with particular sins for a portion of their lives — be that for several months or several years. Regardless, what are we to make of repeated sins whether they are of a more serious nature or not?
 It’s a relatively common question about an even more common experience. Some might ask it this way: “Should I continue to confess sins that I know I’ll almost certainly commit again?” The answer to that has to be, “yes.” 
Part of our confession of sins includes a “firm resolution” to avoid that sin (or those sins) again. This is often the real source of the question. People might ask themselves, “If I was really committed to avoiding a certain sin again, then why do I continue to fall prey to it? Maybe I’m not trying hard enough? Maybe my resolution to avoid it isn’t firm enough?” 
While it’s natural to ask ourselves questions like this in the midst of such a struggle, we also have to remember that sins can be, and often are, habitual. Like any habit — especially those which have existed for a long time, it will take a long time to undo it — or even to make progress in undoing it. 
Having a “firm resolution” to avoid a sin isn’t the same thing as taking an oath that we’ll never do it again. Rather, it means that we will continue to make an effort to avoid it or fight against it. 
Sometimes that fight will help me gain enough ground that it becomes less common for me to fall into again. And sometimes that fight — as valiant as it might be — won’t have me win the battle just yet, or even feel like I’m making much headway. 
Having that firm resolution means, at the very least, that I will continue to enter that fight — even if the odds seem to be against me. At the end of the day, we also have to remember that it’s not simply a matter of will power alone. We need help — God’s help, God’s grace. 
To think that we can overcome our sins (especially habitual ones) through our own effort alone becomes not only unrealistic but also prideful. Even more than that, it has a tendency to downplay the role that grace is supposed to play in that struggle. Sometimes struggling repeatedly with particular sins can be the best reminder of our absolute need for God’s grace and mercy. It might even be the most effective tool for building the virtue of humility in us. 
While the frustration with confessing the same thing(s) again and again can be discouraging, it can also be used by God to help us move further down the path of surrender. 
Advent points us to the need to prepare ourselves for God’s greatest gift, His Son and our Redeemer. Sometimes it is because of our repeated sins that we come to appreciate just how much we need that Redeemer in the first place.