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.
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 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.
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 new 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 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.