Thursday, December 01, 2016

Waiting in Joyful Hope

By Colleen O’Sullivan

On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.  The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 29:18-19)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? (Psalm 27:1a)

As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!”  When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?”  Yes, Lord,” they said to him.  Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.”  And their eyes were opened.  (Matthew 9:27-30a)

Wait for the Lord, his day is near. 
Wait for the Lord: keep watch, take heart.

Prior to Advent 2011’s liturgical language changes, after the Our Father, the celebrant at Mass would pray this short prayer:  In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  That phrase, wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, sums up Advent for me.

We’re not always so good at waiting, however.  I confess to having my Christmas tree already set up and decorated.  I’m hosting the family Christmas dinner this year and my head is full of recipes and logistics.  A thousand siren songs beseech us to do anything but wait in joyful hope.  Get online and cyber-shop.  Run to the mall and come home laden with gifts for family and friends.  Load up your December calendar with Christmas parties, Christmas concerts and the like.  Wait?  We’ve mentally, emotionally and spiritually already skipped right over Advent.

Wait in joyful hope?  Maybe it’s just the darkness of the long winter nights, but I find many people discouraged.  Perhaps your Thanksgiving dinner tableau didn’t exactly resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and there were tensions among those around your table.   Maybe you shudder at the recent reminders that racism is alive and well and that there are still plenty of people who measure a person’s worth by their skin color, ethnic origin, or religious persuasion.  I personally found utterly appalling a story in the Washington Post about a Moroccan TV show, “After the Beating,” where women are matter-of-factly shown how to apply cosmetics to cover up the bruises from physical abuse inflicted on them in their homes.  There are so many in our world who aren’t treated with respect or dignity.

Yet, I am waiting in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord!  The prophet Isaiah promises a day when the land will be renewed and all will be lush and fruitful, a time when we will see and hear the goodness of the Lord and understand the glory of what we are beholding.  The powerful who use their might to make others miserable will be no more.  And, last but not least, we will be so in awe of these works wrought by God’s hand, we will bow down and adore our God.

The psalmist adds that the Lord is our light and our salvation and, with God on our side, there is no reason to live in fear.

In the Gospel reading lies the clue to being able to wait in joyful hope.  The two blind men have faith.  They each believe with all their heart that Jesus can heal them.  And that is what enables the Lord to restore them to wholeness.  Jesus’ own family and hometown friends didn’t have faith and Jesus could do nothing for them for that reason.  

Carve out some quiet time each day to wait in joyful hope for the Lord’s coming.  Give thanks for the ways God has already taken up residence in your heart.  Where you feel disheartened by the state of your family, our country or the world, come up with one small thing you can do to make someone else’s life better and do it.  None of us can transform the entire world, but all the little gifts of love that we offer can and do make a difference.    

Pray with gratitude for God’s sending his Son into the world to be one of us and to offer us redemption.  The dark nights may be long at this time of year, but Jesus is truly the Light that nothing and no one can extinguish.

Finally, pray with joyful anticipation of that day when Christ shall return as King of Glory and redeem all of creation.   That is truly worth hoping and waiting for!

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