Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.”
The Gospel writer Mark cites these words from the prophet Isaiah in regard to John the Baptist, who preaches a message of repentance and readies the people for the coming of one mightier than he: our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Preparing the way of the Lord is what Advent is all about. This time before Christmas is an opportunity to clear our minds from distractions, take a break from the commercialization that invades our lives, and calm our hearts so we can be ready for the coming of our Lord.
It is a good time to focus more on prayer. Using an Advent wreath is a tradition that I encourage because it can help us to reflect more deeply on the season’s readings and what they are calling us to do, or change, in our lives. I also encourage taking advantage of opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation as a way of getting right with God and others during this holy season.
While prayer and the sacraments are essential to preparing our hearts for the Lord’s coming, we also need to reflect on what we do during the rest of our day-to-day lives. We help to prepare the way of the Lord when we are peacemakers in our communities, offer a day of service to an elderly neighbor, purchase an extra bag of groceries for the food shelf, or put the needs of another person ahead of our own.
I also ask you not to forget some of the pressing issues our nation faces today, particularly the plight of immigrants and refugees in our central Minnesota communities. The roads they travel to get here and prosper are often pitted with obstacles and challenges. Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and to be the face of Christ to them, helping to make their paths to a new life straighter and smoother.
So, as Advent begins, let us “prepare the way of the Lord.” There is no time to wait. As the Gospel reading of the first Sunday of Advent reminds us: We must be watchful and alert. We must be ready to welcome Christ, both in the Bethlehem manger and at the end of time.
May you and your loved ones have a blessed Advent season.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud