BY TONY MAGLIANO | December 15, 2020
Waiting is a natural part of life. But it’s often hard to wait. And, in our modern world which pampers us in so many ways with instant gratification, we expect things to happen, well…instantly. And when they don’t, we often quickly become impatient.
If, when the traffic light turns green, the person in front of us doesn’t immediately move, we become irritated. If we have to wait on the phone for a customer service agent to speak with us we get annoyed. And if our computer takes three seconds to respond, we complain to ourselves about how slow it’s running.
A self-centered impatience accompanied with irritability and annoyance is not spiritually healthy. But Advent offers us a cure to what ails our souls. Advent offers us a wonderful opportunity to learn how to wait patiently, prayerfully, and trustingly in the Lord. And in this gentle process we are divinely given peace in the midst of our waiting—the peace that only Jesus can bring; the peace, as he says, the world cannot give.
And as we patiently wait, it is also important to balance that with a dose of healthy impatience on behalf of those in desperate need.
Many years ago, while assisting with the operation of Catholic Charities’ emergency food services in Washington, D.C., I contacted the late famous advocate for the homeless, Mitch Snyder, who gave me a tour of The Community for Creative Non-Violence’s homeless shelter—the largest comprehensive homeless shelter in the United States.
While on the tour I remember mentioning future possible programs for the homeless which I was aware of in the D.C. area. He stopped me in my tracks and firmly said: “That guy in the dumpster looking for food tonight can’t wait for some possible programs. He needs and deserves help now!” These words and the legitimate urgency in his voice made a lasting impression on me.
It’s all too easy for us living in comfortable conditions to expect—albeit often unconsciously—the homeless, hungry, poor, migrant, war-torn, unborn, sick, unemployed, enslaved, and forgotten elderly to wait—to wait for justice.
But no one, absolutely no one, should have to wait for justice, dignity, and love. Everyone deserves and needs to be treated like a human being, a brother or sister, a child of God.
During Advent, it is deeply important for us as committed disciples of our Lord to seek a healthy holistic balance between patiently waiting with purposeful spiritual preparation for Jesus to be born afresh in our hearts, and impatiently striving to bring to fulfillment a new global reality of justice, peace, and love that the incarnation of God gave birth to.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone.” This hopeful prophecy from the Book of Isaiah is marvelously fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.
Amidst the darkness that plagues much of our world, may we long to become ever more like Jesus—the light of the world. While we wait for Emmanuel—God with us—to be reborn afresh in us, may we also like St. John the Baptist be “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ ”
Waiting—with holy patience and holy impatience—is Advent’s call to us.
And so we wait.