3 Dec 2017

Waiting in Joyful Hope! Advent begins - Pilgrim Progress

Cross post from Sr Louise at Pilgrims Progress:

Advent begins not with a cute baby scene but one which might even disturb us. We do not begin our Advent journey with the baby Jesus snuggled in the arms of his parents all aglow in a tranquil postpartum nativity scene.  Instead we begin right in the middle of the birth pains that accompany a difficult delivery. The prophet Isaiah lets out a gut wrenching cry: “O God that you would tear open the heavens and come down.”  The world around us is in turmoil, God.  We need your presence.  Come and occupy our world now! The world cries out for the Lord.

Nowadays people don’t like waiting. In the past I’ve thought of waiting as wasted time, such as when I wait for a bus or in a doctor’s surgery. This kind of waiting requires little action on our part; it’s mostly a matter of biding our time. Everything is so instantaneous that we no longer know how to wait. Yet, these are opportunities to pray. The Second Reading from St. Paul reminds us that as we wait, we do so with a grateful heart. We have received so many gifts which help us as we wait, gifts which keep us faithful. The Lord also asks us to pray as we wait. If we are too busy to pray then we really are too busy. The same amount of time will pass whether I am squandering it in impatience or using it to serve the Lord and His children. Choosing to “wait upon the Lord” or viewed another way, to serve Him, yields far more satisfying results.

A reflection I read on this Sunday’s Gospel invites us to give thanks to all those who keep watch and wait for us. Who are the doorkeepers in our lives who wait anxiously for us to welcome us, even when we have strayed from them, blocked them out? There are doorkeepers who encourage us and offer hospitality and words of advice to keep going along the pilgrim way. 

It is like during the Lough Derg pilgrimage when have to stay awake all night as part of the penitential element. You try to sneak a few secret minutes of zzzz’s before you get caught. You keep moving position to stop your legs hopping with restlessness. It requires effort to stay awake. How can we keep our soul awake for when the Lord comes?

I love Night vigils. There is something very special about keeping watch in the dark by the glow of candles or the moonlight. There is a stillness that the day cannot encapture. But it is so easy to fall asleep, especially when you want to stay awake! 

For this, the Church gives us Advent. It is four weeks of being alert, of preparation. Advent always begins with a word about wakefulness. The wakefulness that Jesus describes is a state of mind and body, a practice, a way of being. It does not bear resemblance to the ways we usually try to keep ourselves (or unwittingly find ourselves) awake, methods that usually leave us jangly-nerved and less than fully functional, usually caffeine-induced! Sometimes we exist more than live, or even worse we ‘survive’ and not live at all. Our Father wants us to thrive, not just survive. The prophet Isaiah wrote to the believers of his day: “those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. Isn’t it amazing how exhausted we can get doing God’s work?

Too often, rather than waiting patiently, quietly, expectantly, and in his word, we are fretting and anxious and non-trusting and our strength is drained. Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings as eagles! It is an interesting thing about eagles. They soar, they don’t fly. They wait for the correct wind, and then they ride that wind, soaring to the heights. Isn’t that a great picture for us as we wait on the Lord? When the wind of the Spirit moves and blows, we ride with wings as eagles to where he wants us to go.

Expectantly wait on Him. And when the Holy Spirit moves, when the wind blows, then soar on wings like an eagle, run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint. In the meantime, wait for Him. And while you are waiting – renew your strength.

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