Printer Friendly

Waiting: a spirituality for believers.


Jer 33:14-16; Ps 25; Thes 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Advent has been repeatedly characterized as a season of waiting and so it is, for each Advent we affirm the first coming of Christ into the world while, at the same time, we renew our anticipation of his second and ultimate advent into our world, into our lives. However, and as Henri Nouwen ("A Spirituality of Waiting," The Weavings Reader, edited by John S. Mogabgab, Upper Room Books, 1993) has affirmed, waiting is not a very popular posture or attitude. In fact, many people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the current culture is so geared toward instantaneous results and satisfaction. For many, says Nouwen, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. Most people do not like such a place and they usually choose to take their leave of it by doing something.

In our particular historical situation, waiting seems to have become even more difficult because of fear, fear of the political futures of our country and the world, fear of economic downturns, fear of diseases that cannot be cured or controlled, fear of nuclear, war and/or disasters. These fears create the ambiance within which hostility can easily develop and escalate. Nouwen sees such fears as the roots of a "first strike approach to others. People who give themselves over to such fears are more likely to resort .to aggression than people who are not so frightened. The more afraid we are, the more difficult it becomes to wait. But Advent is a season that is necessarily marked by waiting. Therefore, rather than let expediency or fearfulness or impatience characterize these waiting weeks, perhaps it would be more beneficial to cultivate a spirituality of waiting.

In the Christian scriptures, an ambiance of waiting sets the scene for welcoming Jesus. Zechariah waits as does Elizabeth; Anna and Simeon wait and see the answer to all their waiting in the child whom Mary and Joseph present in the temple. John the Baptizer waits and stirs the hearts of his contemporaries toward a similar expectancy.

But what is the nature and practice of these waiting ones and how are we called to wait with them and like them? Nouwen has characterized the quality of waiting in several ways. First, it is a waiting with a sense of promise. People who are content to wait have received a promise that allows them to wait. Like a seed growing within, the promise promotes endurance. This, says Nouwen, is very important for we can only wait well if what we are waiting for has already begun for us. Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph and John were living with a promise that nurtured them and enabled them to wait for what or who would come.

Second, the waiting that we see epitomized in the scriptures is active. Rather than remain in a passive or idle state, our forebears in the faith were actively and fully present to each moment, ready to see and believe that this could be the moment when waiting yields to the realization of every hope and expectation. Paul, in today's second reading, reminds us that our active waiting for the Lord's second advent must be exercised in love for one another and for all. For his part, the Lucan evangelist exhorts us to fill our active waking with prayer, constant prayer and careful watchfulness for signs of the Lord's nearness.

Our waiting for God and for Jesus is to be patient. Patience means being willing to remain where we are and to live actively and fully invested in that moment.

To wait in this manner is to live radically attuned to a will and a purpose other than our own; it is to relinquish control over the future in order to let God set the parameters and plot the course. In our waiting, however, we are never alone. Just as Mary made her way to Elizabeth's home in order to wait as the plan and will of God were being accomplished in them, so also we who believe and who await the same Lord, have the support of one another in our waiting. As Nouwen has further explained, the whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for that which we have already seen. Christian community is the place where hope can survive and grow and where waiting, even seemingly interminable waiting, is possible. We wait together to support one another, to encourage and strengthen one another and to remind one another that our waiting together creates the place where Jesus will one day return and call us to himself.

[Patricia Sanchez holds a master's degree in literature and religion of the Bible from a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York.]
COPYRIGHT 2009 National Catholic Reporter
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:sermons; The Word: Scripted for Life
Author:Sanchez, Patricia Datchuck
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 13, 2009
Previous Article:A king like no other.
Next Article:Image of family life out of sync with reality.

Related Articles
Is there enough spine in your spiritual reading?
Spirituality - from a skeptical believer's point of view.
Daybreak on a new kind of church. (Vatican II: 40 years later).
Baptist approaches to spirituality: Baptists have approached spirituality much as they have approached virtually every other concept or practice-with...
A catholic looks at Baptist spirituality: for some thirty years now I have had the privilege of being associated with Baptist institutions (churches,...
Christian spirituality and the quest for identity: toward a spiritual-theological understanding of life in Christ (1): we live in a "spiritual" era....
Here comes the spirit! Trim your jib and let's sail on a spiritual journey.
Letting yourself be shaped by the Spirit: integrating your thoughts and experience of God.
Introducing spirituality to Professional School Counseling.
Journal file.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters