Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33).
The Gospel reading on the first Sunday of Advent sets the tone for the whole Advent season. How should we be watchful and alert during this season in which we prepare for the coming of Christ?
The coronavirus pandemic means that preparations will be different this year. The Christmas season will be different, too. Our gatherings with family and friends will be smaller, if we are able to gather with them at all. Attendance at Advent and Christmas liturgies will be less than in past years, and we will miss being able to sing carols together and some of the other seasonal traditions in our parishes.
Staying alert and being watchful require some different things from us at this time. We prepare well for the coming of Christ when we put the needs of others ahead of our own needs — when we sacrifice for the good of others. This means wearing a mask to lessen the threat of spreading COVID-19, practicing physical distancing and washing our hands frequently. We’ve been asked to do these things for a long time, and some days we are understandably tired of doing them. But these simple practices demonstrate love and compassion for others, especially for the most vulnerable. They are an important way of showing love for our neighbors during what is a difficult time for everyone.
The pandemic has caused so much sickness and death around the world, and I pray that it will end soon. But it also has taught us some important lessons about what is really important in our lives, about the value of community and the need to stay connected in whatever ways we can, and the need to stay close to Jesus and one another in our parish communities and especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, which many people have had to forgo for months.
The Gospel tells us to, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Christ is coming. We know this to be true. Still, for many people in our diocese, this is a time of much uncertainty, stress and anxiety. I believe that the Blessed Mother knows how they feel. When the Angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that she would give birth to Jesus, she, too, was fearful and anxious. But she trusted God, and we must do the same.
We prepare ourselves well during this season when we follow Mary’s example and when we do it as an entire Catholic community. Let’s join together, however we are able, to be watchful and alert for the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and the end of time. He comes with love, hope and peace for all.
May you and your loved ones have a blessed Advent season and a holy and merry Christmas.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Bishop Donald J. Kettler
Bishop Donald J. Kettler is the ninth bishop of the St. Cloud Diocese.