Advent is a time of waiting…
Waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus
Waiting for the Second Coming of Christ
Waiting for the end of the year and the chance to be with family and loved ones.
We are less and less skilled at waiting because, with so many things happening, we simply don’t need to wait anymore. We don’t wait for letters unlike Francis Xavier and St Ignatius who used to wait six months for a ship to deliver a letter! Replies to emails and what’s apps can be virtually instant. A new book arrives on our iPad or kindle within seconds of us clicking a button. But in the bigger picture of life waiting is still a key part of what it means to be human. How do we encounter God in the waiting?
The experience of waiting depends, to a large extent, on what one is waiting for.
There is the joyful expectancy of waiting for something that we long for – like seeing a close friend after a long absence. The anticipation and the imagining what it will be like to see the person and be with them, is part of the joy. Here the waiting can allow us to be in touch with our desires and to savour the gift that awaits us.
Then there is the more difficult waiting for exam results or for the results of medical tests. This waiting is hard because one does not know what to expect. It is especially hard when one is waiting for news that may be life-altering and where one has no control over the result. Sometimes we are even called to wait for something we know is inevitable but which we wish would not happen. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane waited in agony. He held the awareness that it was only a matter of time before he would be arrested. He did not know exactly how things would play out, but he did expect that he would suffer greatly and probably be put to death. Like any human being, he feared the physical, emotional and spiritual pain. We too face those moments – as we wait for a loved one who is dying, to die, or as we wait for a surgery we fear, or a move that we dread.
I wonder what it was like for Mary as she waited through nine months of pregnancy for the birth of Jesus. She had said ‘yes’ to God, and that yes came from the deepest part of herself. Yet, was there a part of her that was afraid, that wished she had not been the one chosen? What did she feel as her body changed? Did she fear the pain of labour so far from home and without the presence of her own mother? Did she wonder about the implications of having accepted something she did not ask for? I am guessing that she did. Yet the crux of both Mary’s “Yes” and Jesus’s “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by but let it be as you, not I, would have it” are that God is first. Ultimately at the deepest level they both wanted what would best serve God’s plan for the world. Because they knew the depth of God’s love for them, agonising though their fears must have been in the waiting, they had the courage to trust that He would be with them every step of the way.