WAITING TO ENCOUNTER GOD
SUNDAY, SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT
Reading 1: Is 40:1-5, 9-11 This contains a piece of good news God is coming to save his people. The people are urged to prepare a way for him.
Reading 2: 2 Pet 3:8-14 If the Lord appears to be slow in coming, Peter says it is only so that people may have a chance to repent and so be ready to meet him when he comes.
Gospel: Mk 1:1-8 John the Baptist appears on the scene to announce to the people the imminent coming of their Saviour and to prepare them for his coming.
We are living in a fast moving world. None of us like to wait. But this present pandemic has taught us that we do have to wait for a lot of things in life, and waiting creates in us a variety of feelings and emotions. At the top of the list probably is impatience; in our everyday lives we encounter longer lines at the grocery store or bank, or traffic on the roads. People all around get impatient. We get impatient. Waiting also produces anticipation and yearning; when it comes to meeting our loved ones after a few months or years. From the time we know that they are going to meet us, we wait expectantly, hopefully, joyfully, for their arrival. Waiting can generate anxiety; like when we go for a check-up to the hospital, and the doctor tells us to wait until the lab results come in. We become anxious.
Waiting is a major part of the story of God’s people throughout the Bible. We see them waiting at the foot of Mount Sinai for Moses to bring to them the Ten Commandments. We see Jonah waiting in the belly of the whale to be spit out. And even after the tragedy of the destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar, we see the exiled people of Judah, waiting in the far-off country of Babylon, yearning to return home. They can only wait in hope that someday they might be able to cross the desert that separates them from their beloved Jerusalem. In all of these cases, the people of God are waiting for redemption, waiting for salvation, waiting for an end to suffering.
Today’s first reading addresses this theme of waiting. Isaiah’s audience are those Hebrews who are waiting for their return from the exile of Babylon. For the Hebrews, this time in captivity is a mixture of anticipation and yearning, anxiety and impatience. Isaiah comforts them and gives them hope with one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry in the Bible. The poem opens with God saying to a heavenly council: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid.”
Just imagine how wonderful hearing this would be for those people waiting anxiously in captivity so far from home. Babylon is hundreds of miles from their home in Jerusalem, across a rocky and barren desert. But this obstacle will no longer burden God’s chosen people. God is coming. God will lead these wayward people out of exile back to their homeland. Their anxious waiting is coming to an end. God will lead them despite many hardships. It was a time when comfort was needed, which is exactly what God was prepared to offer to his people. It is a reminder, to us, that God never gives up on us. God is with us (Emmanuel), in times of difficulty and hardship. He is the one who will care for us and gather us into his arms.
The season of Advent is the time we set aside for “waiting.” We are waiting for the birth of Christ. We are waiting for the final reconciliation of God’s kingdom and all of creation. We are waiting. And this year, due to this pandemic, the waiting is all the more difficult. Nevertheless, our God is a God of hope; through this reading he fills us with hope, and assures us of his presence.
Waiting can be difficult. Knowing that God is with us will not speed up the lines at the grocery or ease congestion on the roads. It will not make our loved ones arrive at our doors any faster. Believing God is present will not make the doctor call with the lab results any sooner. But knowing God is with us in the midst of this waiting can ease the impatience, guide the anticipation, and comfort the anxiety in these situations. As God’s faithful people, we, like the prophet, must find our own voices to speak words of comfort and healing and hope, to anyone who feels separated or abandoned by God. God will come. God will enter the experience of all who wait. God will bring them peace. And God will bring us peace.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 85:9-14 Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and grant us your salvation.
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