Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is Waiting the Right Thing?

"Waiting" can mean a lot of different things in life and common usage.  It can be very good, very bad, and everything in between.

I was trying to think a little bit about how we are "supposed to" wait during Advent.  I confess to often being a bit of a liturgical crank, and whining on occasion about the world celebrating Christmas already when we're supposed to be waiting for it.

I like what John Slattery had to say about how sometimes, celebrating Christmas during Advent is okay.
Christmas–with all its commercial ridiculousness–has become a celebration of the potential goodness within every person.  People often give terrible gifts, they often give too many gifts, they often use Christmas gifts as a replacement for actual love and charity, but, God help them, at least they try.
But it was when I searched for the phrase I recall from my childhood in Catholic masses, "we wait in joyful hope," that I found this gem at the National Catholic Reporter from Chase Nordengren.  I loved his reflection on the writings of Oscar Romero and how they capture the idea of waiting impatiently, for  justice to be done.
Here, Romero speaks directly to a people in poverty, pain and despair about the fruitfulness of waiting while simultaneously demonstrating a kind of impatience with injustice and violence.
"Advent should admonish us to discover," Romero proclaims, "in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. This is what Advent is: Christ living among us." 
"Humans long for peace, for justice, for a reign of divine law, for something holy, for what is far from earth's realities." We have the hope that creates this longing, Romero argues, precisely because we can see Christ here, because we can imagine something about the reign of God from the love and grace of our human brethren.
..."We wait in joyful hope," the liturgy paradoxically proclaims, "for the coming of our savior." Advent is all about living in that paradoxical waiting.
The penitence of the season, then, comes from the reminder that the pain and the saving are inextricably tied.
"God keeps on saving in history," Romero says. "By the light of these Bible readings, we must continue all the history that God has in his eternal mind, even to the concrete events of our abductions, of our tortures, of our own sad history. That is where we are to find our God." 
 So yes, we wait.  We wait impatiently, in joyful hope.  For God to be born among us, in the middle of this world's sad history of abductions, of torture, of racism, of war of so many places and situations where peace and justice are lacking.

May it be so.

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