Advent: Presence in sacred waiting

Advent blog_Our presence_Dec 2017

by Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD

When I was six, I had an unforgettable experience that left an imprint on me. Due to miscommunication, my parents failed to pick me up after school.

I would have risked going home by myself, but it was already dark and I did not know the way. I was terribly scared. This event happened in the days before cellphones. The school office was closed. I had no choice other than to wait.

I did not cry. However, I felt helpless and alone. That childhood experience impacted my attitude growing up. My trust became fragile. Consequently, I developed the “I’m in charge” and “let me handle it” attitude. I became independent to a fault. I took control and manipulated situations to avoid anxiety in waiting.

There are moments throughout our lives when we find ourselves waiting in frustration. Despite our efforts for better outcomes, we feel stuck in situations that nobody wants. In as much as we want to quickly ease the pain we face, we find ourselves lost, not knowing how to manage ourselves.

People who recently have relationship breakups struggle; they sometimes need time to help them regain their self-worth. Individuals recovering from addiction tussle to keep themselves sober. Families with a seriously ill member sometimes fight with one another due to financial burdens, care-giving concerns and emotional distress. With a desire to give their children a better life, many single parents are exhausted, having two jobs to make ends meet.

Often, it’s impossible to fix our life problems in a short time span. We sometimes have to struggle under agonizing circumstances for quite a while. The perplexity of everyday life might make us doubt the presence of God. We might live as if there is no God.

The season of Advent is a sacred waiting period. When observed, the season makes us aware of our ongoing journey into a deeper reality. We can learn how to travel the journey with the examples of our faith models in the Advent narratives, people who prayerfully experienced sacred waiting.

In the Gospel of Luke, the old Zechariah and Elizabeth, felt hopelessness while waiting to have a child. Yet, they remained righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees. After waiting for a long time, an angel sent by God said: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John” (Luke 1:13). Zechariah, Elizabeth and John show us the divine work of God in a family who stays together in sacred waiting.

Joseph may have been disillusioned, resentful and afraid when he learned of Mary’s pregnancy. He could have followed his immediate plan of quietly sending her away. Instead, he took time to discern. In a dream, an angel of God told him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). He gained courage to follow God’s salvation plan.

Mary opened herself to God’s will by accepting the Archangel Gabriel’s words, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31). Selflessly, Mary said yes to God’s call. Her acceptance of God’s will encourages us to wait in confident assurance. Regardless of the difficulties that lie ahead, God will never abandon us.

We might be afraid of the uncertainty. Advent reminds us not to be afraid to bring ourselves before God. We are invited to recognize again God’s existence.

We are summoned to reflect and be present in sacred waiting. As we journey through the Advent season, let us bring our minds, hearts and spirits into contemplative awareness before God. When we bring our worries and burdens to God, time is nothing.

Theologian Ronald Rolheiser wrote, “To give birth to what’s divine requires the slow patience of gestation.” Advent has come. Spend time to reflect on your meaningful experiences of waiting. Pray to God for help in recognizing His divine presence in your sacred waiting.

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