Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. — Is. 40:31
I was standing at the sink one afternoon when Chris was about 5. I can’t recall what he wanted, but whatever it was, he couldn’t have it. I counseled patience. “But Mom, I’m not a waiting kind of guy!” he retorted – a response that has lived on in family lore.
Even at 12, Chris is still not a “waiting kind of guy.” This weekend, at that very same sink, he mused that if he could, he would skip the next four years – he can’t wait to be to able to drive the car. (Needless to say, I can wait.)
We have just moved from the long stretch of Ordinary Time, the counted weeks of the Church year, into Advent, into uncounted time. Wreaths and calendars let us mark off the weeks of Advent and the days until Christmas. Still the season nudges us to think about the unknowable, unmeasurable, uncountable time until Christ comes again. It demands that we be a “waiting kind” of people.
Chris sees no point in waiting, and so no reason to cultivate patience. Isaiah does. Those who wait for the Lord, he proclaims, will gain strength; they will walk and not become weary. Waiting is not a passive marking of time; it is more than simply getting through the days. Isaiah expects waiting to change us.
In the Hebrew text of Isaiah, the word we translate as “wait,” or sometimes “hope,” in this verse is transliterated “qavah.” The word comes from a root that means to bind together, to twist up like a strand of rope. I find this image of a gathering of strands teaches me a great deal about how to become part of a waiting people.
I wait for the Lord, but not passively and not alone. I’m bound together in the waiting with God, who chose in Jesus to inextricably entwine His life into our humanity. The Eternal became entangled in our ordinary reckoned time. If we are gathered into His life even as we wait, I could see how we might draw on His strength, and not become weary. In the process of waiting, we are both caught up into God’s saving work and strengthened for it.
In a homily for the third Sunday of Advent, Pope John Paul II also draws on this sense of waiting as one that gathers, rather than sits apart until the expected moment arrives: “This vigilant patience, as the Apostle James stresses … favors the strengthening of human ties in the Christian community.” Waiting not only allows our relationship with God to unfold and grow, but our relationships with each other as well. If we are all caught up with God, we are bound to each other.
Perhaps the “waiting kind” of people we are called to be aren’t ones who are anxious to have the time pass by, or even ones who will patiently endure its passage. We are called to be people willing to bind our lives into the Eternal and in doing so surrender our inspanidual strands to the whole of God’s work. Waiting people are willing to be changed in the waiting.
We can learn, as Jesuit priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin advised, to “trust in the slow work of God.” We can wait for the Lord, counting off the days until Christmas, or we can choose to wait with the Lord, allowing our lives to become ever more bound into His.
O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in You forever, in the blissful hour of Your Eternity. Amen. – Prayer ending essay, “God Who is to Come” by Jesuit Father Karl Rahner
Michelle Francl-Donnay is a member of Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish in Bryn Mawr. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it with youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: