Third (Gaudete) Sunday of Advent
Saint Patrick Parish
December 10/11, 2016
“Way back” at the end of November I ordered a computer, and I’ve been waiting for it to be shipped ever since. At first, they said it would be here by the 9th, then they updated it and said it would be here by the 14th, but I was skeptical that they would hold to that date. It turns out I was right to doubt them – I checked this morning (yes I’m that interested that I checked this morning) and now they are saying it will be here by the 25th. Not only that but the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and required me to accept this change or decline the order – I’m guessing it has something to do with receiving Christmas presents in time for Christmas. Either way, I am beginning to doubt that I’ll ever get the computer. Will it now come when they say it will, or will it be delayed again? My interest in this computer isn’t purely selfish, by the way, I am planning to give my old computer to my sister, so this is sort of for her… sort of.
We are in the season of waiting, namely waiting for the coming of the Lord at Christmas time, but I cannot help but see within my situation one of the dangers of waiting. That danger is the connection between waiting and becoming impatient, which can easily lead to doubt. Waiting, it seems, can feel like an eternity and it is not difficult to imagine giving up altogether. The virtue that is the opposite of impatience is obviously patience and the virtue that counteracts doubt is of course faith. In this season of waiting are we in danger of losing our patience, or our faith?
Our Advent wreath can be a symbol of waiting. From the time we are old enough to count, I am willing to bet each and every one of us has seen the pink candle burning and thought ‘halfway to Christmas!’ Some may also become impatient with the waiting; I know as a child I did; I would think about how soon it would be until the fourth candle was light and then Christmas would be right around the corner, oh but all the while it seemed so far away! Waiting can lead to impatience which can lead to doubt.
|John Linnell, Saint John the Baptist, 1867|
No one, it seems, is safe from the possibility of becoming impatient and losing faith. Just look at the example of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. This is John the Baptist we are talking about, the man whose entire life pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. We now find him sitting in prison, and in prison he has time to think and doubt. While he is imprisoned, he seems to be growing impatient, or even losing faith that Jesus is the Christ. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel John the Baptist tells Jesus that he should not be baptizing him; instead, Jesus should be the one doing the baptizing. John is convinced, however, and soon after hears the voice of God coming down from the heavens “this is my son in whom I am well pleased.” This is the same John the Baptist who, in the Gospel of Luke, leaped in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth at the very presence of the unborn Jesus. John the Baptist has encountered Jesus and revealed his faith in him and yet here he is sitting in prison seemingly growing impatient and perhaps even losing faith in Jesus.
If John the Baptist can have a moment of weakness how safe are we? How quickly we can become impatient with our God, who leaves us waiting for him! The answer to this difficulty, I believe, lies in today’s celebration of Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for rejoice, and so I say we are called to rejoice while we wait. Our God who is all loving would not leave us waiting unless there is some good to be found in waiting. In what are we to rejoice? I say rejoice in the fact that God is not done with you yet. No matter how old or how young you are God is not finished with you yet – there is still more yet to be revealed. We must accept the patience and faith that God provides to sit in the tension of waiting, the tension of soon but not yet, the tension that calls us to something greater than ourselves.
We might at times grow impatient, or even begin to lose faith, but we can rejoice in the fact that Jesus never loses his patience with us, he simply calls us time and again to come closer to him. In an even greater way, God cannot lose faith in us, for God is faith itself, and God cannot betray what he is. God remains constant and we for our part can ever more prepare our hearts to receive him.