November 28, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord

Waiting for the blessed hope is easier said than done

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin“As we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us” (Ti 2:13-14).

We pray about “waiting for the blessed hope” every day in the Mass, and in a special way during Advent. Our faith teaches us that the Lord will come again. And we’re told that his coming will be a time of great rejoicing, a time when every tear will be wiped away and all our hopes will be fulfilled. 

 We believe this. It is an integral part of Christian hope. One day, the Lord will come again and the redemption of the world (and our personal redemption) will be complete.

As a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), I have a keen awareness of this fundamental truth of our faith. The process that was initiated by God’s promise to his chosen people, the Jews, and that was realized in the fullness of time by Christ’s Incarnation and by his passion, death and resurrection, will be brought to fulfillment on the last day. 

We wait for this day, the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

But there are different kinds of waiting. As anyone who has been caught in a traffic jam on Interstate 65 knows, waiting can be frustrating. And those who have found themselves in an emergency room know that waiting can be very painful.

There is eager waiting—as when a friend or family member is due to come home after a long absence. There is anxious waiting that comes after a tumor has been removed and the results of the biopsy aren’t in yet. And many of us have experienced what might be called “angry waiting” when, for example, someone we trusted to do something very important for us has so far failed to deliver on his or her promise.

Waiting is not something we do willingly. We are used to the instant gratification of our desires, the quick fix. We don’t like waiting in long lines, and we get irritated when the meal we ordered in a restaurant takes longer to be served than we think it should.

So what does hopeful waiting mean for us? Is it just a nice thing that we reflect on during the Advent season? Or does it tell us something important about who we are as “missionary disciples of Jesus Christ” (as Pope Francis calls us)?

As missionary disciples, I believe that we encounter God first and foremost in prayer and in the loving service of others that is nourished and sustained by our prayer.

Authentic prayer requires patience. We open our hearts to God; we share with him our deepest hopes and fears and desires; we ask for God’s help; we promise to be more faithful and to sin no more—with the help of his grace. And then we wait for God’s response.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written that prayer is “hope in action.” It is action because we take the initiative and reach out to God who is always there—our constant companion on every step of life’s journey. Prayer is also a profound expression of hope because it requires that we let go of our need for an immediate or predetermined answer. Prayer teaches us to wait—and to trust—in hope.

We begin the Church year with a season of waiting, a time of expectation and longing. Advent prepares us to celebrate Christmas without falling into the trap of superficial or unrealistic expectations. It teaches us that the greatest gift of Christmas is the Lord himself.

Advent shows us that a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is what we truly hope for at this time of year (and always). It reminds us that all the joys of Christmas, and of the Lord’s second coming, can truly be ours—if we learn to wait for them prayerfully.

Waiting in hope is easier said than done. It requires patience, trust and a firm belief that God will hear and answer our prayers. We hope that the Lord will give us everything we truly desire, and need, and that his coming again—this Christmas and at the end of time—will be our greatest source of joy.

And, so, we pray: Maranâ thâ’ (Our Lord, come)! Help us wait patiently. Prepare us for Christmas and for your coming again in glory. Remove all the obstacles—our frustrations, pain and anger—that prevent us from receiving you with joy, so that we may share your love with others as missionary disciples. May we be one with you always, our blessed hope. †

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