Advent is joyful, patient waiting

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday, 15 December 2019

Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 ><}}}*> James 5:7-10 ><}}}*> Matthew 11:2-11

Malolos Cathedral, 10 December 2019. Photo by author.

For most people, our title is something odd and weird, perhaps even an oxymoron, for how can waiting be joyful and patient?

Many people hate to wait. Waiting for them is a waste of time because they believe it is an activity that is empty, full of risks of leading to nothing and disappointments. That is why they make all kinds of excuses in having all the devices and gadgets they need to busy themselves with while they are – after all – still “waiting”!

This Season of Advent is the most opportune time to rediscover the beauty and joy of patient waiting, especially this Third Sunday known as “Gaudete Sunday” from the Latin gaudere, to rejoice.

Advent teaches us that waiting is both joyful and patient; that it is more than an activity but a being that is always indicative of having something leading to fullness!

Our Parish altar, Gaudete 2019.

Patience is waiting that leads to fulfillment.

Pink is our motif this Third Sunday of Advent to signify joy in waiting for the Lord’s Second Coming. Waiting is an experience in itself filled with joy – if we really know how to wait patiently.

Patience is from the Latin word patior, to suffer. Its Greek origin is hupomone that suggests continuance and submission that literally means “submissive waiting”.

Both in its Latin and Greek origins, patience is a condition or a being of willing to wait because it knows there is something coming. It is never empty: you patiently wait because you already have something, you are holding onto something already. We wait in line whether in the grocery or at the doctor’s clinic because we know we would be attended to later. We wait precisely because we have something – almost – but not yet.

In this sense, patient waiting is more than an activity but more of a being and a condition that leads us to trust and faith, then into hope, and eventually into fullness.

Impatient people cannot wait because they do not see beyond the present condition. Their perceptions are very limited that they have to satisfy their wants immediately, just like our culture of instants these days or the so-called IGG for “Instant Gratification Generation”.

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing

Isaiah 35:1-2, 3-6
An oasis in the Dead Sea desert, May 2017. Photo by author.

Intimacy: the joy of patient waiting

There are three key personalities in Advent: Isaiah, John the Baptist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Isaiah saw the coming of the Christ from a very distant past while John pointed everyone that the awaited one has already come. Mary, on the other hand, celebrated Advent because she brought forth Jesus in her womb.

Today we are joined by Isaiah and John the Baptist to complete our joy of patient waiting that Christ in fact is already with us though not yet…

In our first reading we have seen the imagery of the desert like last Sunday in John’s preaching. The desert evokes the feeling of nothingness and emptiness like waiting itself as most people think.

But, in the bible since the time of Abraham, the desert is the favorite place where God would always meet with people. It was always in the desert where the prophets and the people waited and experienced God.

Wild flowers in the desert of Jordan, May 2019.

So you see, my dear reader and follower, the desert is more than a place but also the intimacy of God with his people and later with his Son Jesus Christ who would always go to the desert or deserted place to pray like in the Transfiguration, or when he prayed and fasted for 40 days and nights before being tempted by the devil after his baptism by John at Jordan. It was also in the desert where Jesus did many of his memorable conversations that led to conversions like at Jacob’s well where he met a Samaritan woman one hot afternoon.

Examine your lives, dear reader and follower: it is always in the desert of our lives, in its bareness and desolation, when we are empty and thirsty when we truly experienced God closest.

Isaiah spoke of this prophecy when the Israelites were at their lowest point of misery and defeat as exiles in a pagan country with no freedom, no temple, even no God.

When we are full of material things, full of ourselves, when everything is going so perfectly well in life, that is when we are ironically shallow and superficial. What really deepened us in life are those desert moments of tribulations and trials because that is when we have found and rediscovered true intimacy – with God and with our loved ones!

Patient waiting is a desert full of joy because that is where we experience intimacy and fullness, the tension of the already here but not yet, not only with God but also with one another.

Here we find St. James imagery of the farmer as finest example of patient waiting, of trusting in God that what we have sown would grow and be fruitful. Despite our culture of instants, there are so many things that cannot be rushed, when we have to patiently wait in time like intimacy.

How do we recognize our true friends? They are the ones who always stand by our side especially when we our down and out, the ones who accompany us in our patient waiting when we are in the middle of a storm, or in the desert, desolate.

Malolos Cathedral Dome, December 2019. Photo by author.

Proceeding in joy in the presence of the Lord

One problem with waiting is when we are superseded by our so many expectations that may also be unrealistic. We hate waiting, we stop hoping because we feel disappointed and frustrated because we do not get what we really expect from our waiting.

The problem is with us, not with waiting itself. So often we await things instead of persons. To wait in joy with patience demands openness for the one who is coming not on what is coming.

True waiting is always about persons, not things. Waiting is beautiful and joyful because you are not alone in waiting, there is always another person waiting for you, waiting with you. And when we finally meet with the one we are waiting, then we have presence!

This is why the synonym for gift is also present, from presence.

Every waiting is directed to another person who also awaits the other person. When we focus our waiting on things than persons, then we miss everything in our waiting which is the presence of the other person.

This is the meaning of the response of Jesus to the emissaries of John.

Camp John Hay “Belen”, December 2017.

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.”

Matthew 11:2-5

Jesus was telling the emissaries of John that the one they have been waiting had come, already present among the people especially the sick and the poor. God had come in the midst of his people, healing them, consoling them, uplifting them.

This Third Sunday of Advent, Jesus is asking us like the crowds: what are we looking for, what are we waiting for? Set aside or totally forget all your expectations, open yourself, open your heart, open your eyes to see and experience the presence of the Christ who had come, who will come again, and always comes among us.

Indeed, we are so blessed because despite our being sinful, of being the least in the kingdom of heaven, we have Jesus coming to us day in, day out. Share his coming, share his healing, share his joy! Amen.

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