This Sunday, I invite you to reflect on the theme of waiting in faith. The readings illustrate this theme, with the promise of justice and peace with the coming of the Messiah, and the assurance from John the Baptist that Christ will fulfill all prophecies and renew things.
There’s an oft-quoted Ignatian principle expressed in the form of a question that I propose as our starting point in our reflections: Do you seek the God of consolation or the consolations of God?
This presents to us a very subtle truth. It is not what we wait for, but who we wait for that will matter most in the end. This is why Advent is a waiting in faith.
We wait for the coming of Christ in whom we can place our faith in, with whom we can enter into a relationship of meaning and love. We become what we believe, or better still, we become who we believe in.
I had previously shared an Anthony de Mello story on friendship that gives rise to faith.
There were two soldiers, Joe and Carl, who were close friends. It was wartime, and they were in one company engaged in an encounter. As they started to suffer heavy casualties, the commander ordered a retreat.
When the company got to safe ground, Joe noticed Carl was not with them. He went to the commander and asked permission to go back to look for Carl. The commander disapproved, saying that under heavy fire of the enemy, Carl would surely have been killed. He told Joe they would recover the bodies when it was safer to do so.
Joe apologized before he disobeyed the order and ran back to the battlefield. Minutes later he came back carrying Carl’s dead body. As he put it down, the company saw that Joe himself was mortally wounded.
The commander furiously told Joe, “I told you he would have been killed in the firefight. You foolishly endangered yourself, and now I risk losing another man. What a waste, Joe!”
Joe, fighting for his own life, calmly told the commander, “Sir, it was not a waste. When I got to Carl he was still alive. I held him up and propped him on my lap telling him to hold on. He gasped for breath, he smiled, and his last and only words were, ‘Joe, I knew you would come.’”
“I knew you would come.” This is what “waiting in faith” means. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
This is the grace of the waiting in faith of Advent that is available to us. It is not just an abstract faith, but a personal faith in the person of Christ; not in consolations, but in the God of consolation.
A former student shared a similar story. He is now in his late 30s, advancing in his career, and his work requires a lot of traveling. He got married 12 years ago and was blessed with two kids, both boys.
After a trip abroad, he got home in time for dinner. Upon entering the house, his two boys ran up and hugged him. His older son, then 9, hugged him tightly and started to tear.
Then the boy said, “I am crying because I am so happy you are here, dad.” The father hugged back his son and said, “I am happy, too, that I am with you.”
He realized how much his son had matured. This young boy was always warm and affectionate, but in his younger years what came after the hug was the excited wait for pasalubong.
These stories tell us of the grace of waiting in faith, which renews the assurance of “I knew you would come,” a grace most powerfully highlighted in this Season of Advent and brought to fulfillment in the great Feast of Christmas.
It reminds us of the story of our faith, how, for ages, our fathers in faith were inspired by this waiting in faith that the promised Messiah will come. This is our story. Our life is inspired by faith in this promise that makes us wait in faith. And when he comes, it is the joy of a child, tears of joy.
Waiting in faith finds its synthesis in the manger. In the fulfillment of an age-old prophecy, “Behold the virgin shall be with child and they call him Emmanuel, God-with-us.”
At that moment we are renewed, the waiting in faith is rewarded by a renewed relationship with Christ. We embrace once more our Christ.
We can wait in faith because God was first to wait in faith for us. He knew we would come. We would go back home to him. —CONTRIBUTED