John D. Merkelis, O.S.A.
Providence Catholic High School
New Lenox, Illinois
Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 Thes 3:12—4:2
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
I have grown accustomed to waiting, which is not to say that I gladly welcome it in any sense. When I take my mom to her doctor’s appointment, visit the post office, drop off my car, or go shopping, I expect that it will take time. I am prepared; I read, play Words With Friends on my phone, or answer texts and emails.
In fact, I am intrigued when I encounter people who are genuinely shocked that they have to wait. I take special interest in the one person who grumbles aloud, for the rest of us “in waiting” to hear, at the cashier/attendant/business that is so insensitive as to make anyone wait.
I have noted the different kinds of waiting, and my response to each. I am happily expectant when the delivery has an estimated arrival time between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m.; I am irritated as the time slowly creeps towards 1:30 p.m. and later. I am anxious when the emergency room doctor says it will take an hour for the test results, and I clock-watch each minute. I am frustrated when traffic is slow, and I dread the passing of time prior to a meeting that involves a hard conversation. I am delighted and energized as I anticipate the long-planned trip to the theatre or an evening out with close friends. Each of these instances reveals something about me.
In those instances of waiting that involve uncertainty and challenge, I look for consolationin company. Sometimes all I need is for someone to be with me, put a hand on my shoulder, or simply tell me that s/he understands. That is why the readings appeal to me this First Sunday ofAdvent.
God tells Jeremiah, “I will fulfill the promise I made.” Paul addresses the Thessalonians, “Strengthen your hearts. . .at the coming of Our Lord Jesus.” I am comforted by these directives, for I know God understands my tendency to distract myself during waiting. I am in Good (God’s) hands!
The season of Advent is a time of waiting, which traditionally is defined as preparation. It’s normal to begin to plan the menu, shop for gifts or write and address the annual holiday cards. These are the usual ways to prepare for Christmas. One important part is left out.
Jesus tells his disciples, “Be vigilant. . .pray that you have strength.” Advent provides a wonderful opportunity to consider what is going on inside me, to reflect on the reason for my waiting: the arrival of Jesus, the arrival of Love, in my heart in ever-new ways. Moreover, I can learn about how I wait: Am I anxious? Lonely? Tired? Am I curious? Thankful? Excited? I can open my heart to the Lord in quiet prayer and allow His presence to instruct me and fill me.
During this season, take a few minutes every day to sit quietly. Talk to the Lord about your day, especially the unresolved issues that occupy your time. Let the cares and distracting thoughts come and go; notice how you feel when you are alone with God. Offer up even those feelings. Then see if there is a movement, or a voice, from inside. It may not happen the first day, or the second.
Take a bit of quiet every day. This is the best preparation for Christmas.
This Advent, God invites us into the waiting.