Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
This phrase is the longtime motto of the Boy Scouts of America. I’ve been involved in Scouting all my life — first as a youth, and then later as a priest and bishop supporting the valuable opportunities that Scouting provides for young people. But Scouts shouldn’t be the only ones who take the motto to heart; it’s good advice for all of us — especially as we enter the season of Advent.
“Be prepared” is a reminder to ready our minds and bodies to do what’s necessary to live a meaningful and holy life. It means being ready to help others when they are in need. Being prepared is at the heart of Advent, a time to ready ourselves for the coming of Christ — as a baby in the manger at Christmas and at his second coming at the end of time.
The Gospel readings on the first few Sundays of Advent remind us of this need for preparation:
- “Stay awake!” Matthew’s Gospel reminds us on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 1. “For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: If the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
- On the second Sunday of Advent, Matthew writes about John the Baptist and his cry to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John is “a voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
Stay awake! Be prepared! Repent! Matthew’s writing is filled with urgency: Jesus could be coming at any time, maybe even today. Are you ready to meet him?
Advent helps us to get ready to meet Jesus. It is an opportunity to turn away from the distractions of the commercialized holiday season, calm our minds and hearts, and refocus on our relationship with God. We can prepare by spending more time in prayer — by taking extra time to read and reflect on the season’s Scripture readings and praying daily around an Advent wreath. It’s also an opportunity to take advantage of the sacrament of penance to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness for the times when we have fallen short in our relationship with him and those around us.
And, while we prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas and the end of time, let’s not forget to prepare ourselves for the times we meet Christ in other ways: in the Eucharist and in the faces of the people we encounter each day, especially those on the margins. When we are kind and merciful to the poor, the immigrant, the ill and the prisoner, we straighten our own path to holiness and discipleship.
If we strive to “be prepared,” we will deepen our experience of this holy season.
May you have a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler