“Train yourself for devotion …” — 1 Timothy 4:7
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Exercising is important for good health. Doctors tell us to exercise our bodies at least 30 minutes a day. In addition to improving our physical health, exercise helps us to fight stress and improve our mental well-being.
There also are exercises we can do to benefit our spiritual health. We exercise spiritually when we commit ourselves to daily routines of Scripture reading and prayer, participate in Sunday Mass, serve others, and practice gratitude and compassion. All of these things bring us closer to Christ.
The season of Advent — which begins this year on Sunday, Nov. 27 — is a good time to exercise our spiritual lives. Advent is a time of preparation, a time to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ as a baby in a manger at Christmas and also for his coming at the end of time.
The season’s Scripture readings tell us to be alert and ready. On the first Sunday of Advent, Jesus warns us to “stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Later in the season, John the Baptist preaches a message of repentance to “prepare the way of the Lord.” On the third Sunday of Advent, the letter writer James encourages us to “be patient” and make our hearts firm because of “the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
As a time of preparation, Advent is an appropriate season to focus on exercising our spiritual lives more fully — whether this means returning to the faith after being away for a while, or “upping your game” as you work to grow closer to Christ each day. So, in these weeks before Christmas, I invite you to join me in committing to daily prayer and reflection on the day’s Scripture readings and to fast from the things that keep us away, or distract us, from God.
I also encourage you to volunteer more of your time to serving others, especially the poor and those in your life who are most in need of experiencing God’s love through your presence. In this regard, I think of the example of St. Nicholas, whose feast day we celebrate on Dec. 6. St. Nicholas was a model of Christian charity and generosity. You can read more about him on pages 12-15 in this edition.
Like physical exercise, spiritual exercise can be challenging. But, if we stick with it during this Advent season and beyond, I have no doubt it will bear fruit in our lives, our families and our parish/ACC communities.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud