I once had a conversation with a young man about his fear of death. This was after we, along with his fiancée, discussed preparations for their wedding. And then I asked, “Do you have any other concerns?”
The would-be groom expressed his fear of dying, since his brother had suddenly passed away several months earlier. I paused and reflected on his concern.
I responded by saying that when our time comes, we will not even notice that we are passing from this life to the next, from the here and now to eternity, especially as we live our life more and more dedicated to God’s mission for us.
I thought about this conversation, which took place almost five years ago, as I prepared to write this Sunday’s reflection on waiting in love, the fourth and final Sunday of Advent.
The first and the final readings from Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew, respectively, cite this prophecy: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
This is the gist of the Advent grace of waiting in love, “God is with us”—living in this proleptic fulfillment of God’s promise that he will always be with us.
Matthew powerfully delivers this message, as he starts his Gospel with the genealogy of Christ leading to this dream of Joseph in today’s Gospel, capped by this prophecy from Isaiah; and at the end of the Gospel, as in the very last verse, we have Christ promising, as he ascends and missions his apostles: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Waiting in love is living in hope, faith and joy rooted in this promise, “proleptically fulfilled,” that he was, is and will always be with us. This is the power of this grace, that we live our life in hope, faith and joy, empowered to live in love.
Have you seen a young kid, a toddler trying to gain confidence, trying something new, like learning how to walk, for example?
Notice how toddlers try to explore and do things on their own, drawing strength from people they trust, like their parents, grandparents or yaya—the trust that these people will be there. Taking the first tentative steps, the toddler looks back to check if his/her security is there, and seeks assurance that things are okay.
This beginning of trust may seem so elementary, even infantile, but such experiences become building blocks. Those who provide the ground of trust become the go-to guys for young kids, knowing they will always be there for them.
Last week I conducted a session with close to 600 youth leaders from Cavite who participated in the General Trias 5th Youth Leaders’ Summit. One youth leader shared the great work of their group.
They bring together out-of-school youth (OSY) and try to convince them to go back to school through alternative learning modules. He identified, as their first and most difficult challenge, making these OSYs overcome the negative aspects of their life.
It is making OSYs believe that their life can be better, or simply believe in themselves, that is the gist of their work, said the young leader. These OSYs, perhaps, never learned to “walk,” and very early in life, their spirits were crippled.
Contrast this with what Chris Lowney, in his book “Heroic Leadership,” says of the great achievements in human civilization. He posits that what was common in these men with achievements was they were trained and formed in “environments of greater love than fear, where many more people will enjoy the chance to achieve their full human potential.”
Environments of greater love than fear are built by people who care and love—the fulfillment of the promise that these people will always be there for others who are being nurtured to achieve their full human potential.
There is one more element to integrate into our reflections, the element of mission or purpose, that which gives the process and our life integrity. Two esteemed psychologists, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of “Flow”) and Angela Duckworth (author of “Grit”), consider purpose the most important element that nurtures excellence and optimal performance.
Purpose, likewise, opens us to the notion of service, that excellence is not for excellence’s sake, but in the service of others and God. It is thus not simply for personal best or personal meaning, but working to make this world a little bit better, making the lives of others better.
Waiting in love is living in hope, faith and joy in an environment of greater love than fear—an environment that is solidly founded on the “proleptic fulfillment” of the promise that our God is a God with us and a God who will be with us until the end of time.
It is also this promise of God with us yesterday, today and forever that makes our transitory life oriented toward eternity. Living this transitory life more and more in the grace of waiting in love makes our life more seamless, more integrated. The here and now integrate with eternity in the one flow, the one optimal experience called love. —CONTRIBUTED