Just a Few Clicks Away
We can acquire a greater variety of goods with a quick drive to the store than most kings could find in a lifetime. If you don’t want to wait (or even leave your house), it only takes a few clicks to set in motion the amazing machine that is Amazon.com with next day shipping. We have become accustomed to the ease of procurement. Our needs and whims are satisfied almost instantly and with minimal effort. We seem to be limited only by our financial means… and even this restriction can be momentary put aside thanks to the wonder of credit cards. The danger is that this facility to acquire things creates a habitual way of dealing with needs and wants. We have become used to the instant, easy solutions. However, this is artificial. For all man’s mastery over the world, most of life is not this way. In fact, the most of the truly important things require a good deal of both waiting and effort.
3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A
Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. – James 5:7 – 10
This is especially true for the farmer. He plants a seed and waits. He waters and waits. He fertilizes, prunes, and waits some more. There is a lot of effort on his part, but there is a lot of waiting. The process takes the time that it takes. It cannot be hurried. There is a large part of the results that are totally out of his hands. In fact, a bad year can impact his whole livelihood, but this may not be the result of his efforts at all. He does everything he can, but he must also wait for the fields to grow. There is more involved than the farmer’s own effort. The work of the farmer is combined with the mysterious plan God wrote into the laws of nature. It is a collaboration with something he cannot control. So in his waiting, in his patience there is something else: hope. It is precisely in the moments where we must wait patiently, humbly, powerlessly that the virtue of hope can grow in us. We see a seed and a promise, and we cling to that since our own effort cannot hurry it along.
Tension Between Working and Waiting
It is immature to do nothing, hoping that God will solve all our problems like a magic genii. But it is also arrogant to believe that we can make everything happen our way, according to our timing, and following along our plans. Reality is somewhere in the middle–we must do all that we can, but all the while patiently trusting in God for everything that corresponds Him. It is true wisdom to know our part and His.
Waiting on the Lord
This hopeful waiting is what the season of Advent is about. God who becomes a tiny, powerless baby in a manger is a sign of hope for the salvation to come. In that moment, Mary looked into the face of her creator, knowing what the angel told her–that her son would be great and king forever… but not yet. Then as He grew up in Nazareth, learned to walk, began to help at home… not yet. 30 years of patient waiting, but… not yet. Advent invites us to contemplate God’s time. It helps us leave behind the temptation of instant gratification, growing in patience. In those moments of patience, we learn how to discern what requires effort and what requires trust. Advent teaches us to savor any waiting the Lord may ask of us, knowing that it is an exercise in hope since “hope does not put us to shame.”