Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent: Waiting for Joy

“Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” – James 5:7
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” – Matthew 11:3

Visiting my family this past Thanksgiving showed me contrasting attitudes as well as the cost of waiting. My dad called and impatiently asked what time I was going to arrive, since heavy traffic delayed my journey home. He was hungry. When I arrived, my niece Tiki erupted in joy. She jumped on me like a three year old, although she’s approaching eleven. Two contrasting attitudes: patient and impatient waiting.

The second reading (as well as the first) and the Gospel today also show dissimilar attitudes of waiting.  While the author of James’ epistle calls for “patient, firm hearts,” John the Baptist betrays desperation for a clear answer. Given his imprisonment and dire circumstance, it is understandable. (Likewise, my dad’s bursitis was handing him a difficult day). For patient waiting involves bearing suffering. The word “patience” comes from the Latin verb “patior,” meaning to “suffer.” Such suffering may take the form of a dying to one’s preferences, wants, agenda, timeline; it may take the form of letting go, of paying attention to what is happening here and now, especially feelings of discomfort and uneasiness, yet focusing on the one who is coming near.

My niece Tiki is delighted to see me. She is confident in my love for her. When someone we know loves us comes near, joy also visits. We are more than happy, because happiness is based mainly on favorable circumstances. Joy erupts when we encounter someone who loves us, grounds us, and brings out our best selves. Our heart leaps, our eyes beam with gladness, our feet risks dancing. Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation bursts with “the joy of the Gospel” that “fills the heart and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Our joy breaks forth when we meet the One who comes always offering healing, forgiveness, and freedom. Jesus comes to meet us where we are, to stay, offering peace and joy beyond measure. Even when things are hard and do not go our way, we’re motivate to wait patiently because the One who elicits joy is coming.

Jesus, help me to accept you as the One who is coming near, giving life, and staying.

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