Tuesday May 21, 2019
4:50 pm
Bishop Hying

Through patience and in God’s time, the Kingdom slowly and steadily unfolds

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on December 11, 2016

 

       The implications of living in an instantaneous culture are profound and far-reaching. News events occurring on the other side of the planet are immediately known. Social media puts us in touch with anybody right away. Fast food is always available. We enjoy conveniences, luxuries and comforts that previous generations and many people living in developing countries now cannot even imagine.

       My father, born in 1917, grew up on a farm in southwest Wisconsin without plumbing, electricity, television or radio. His first memory was plowing a field behind a horse at the age of 5. When he was drafted in World War II and was sent to Guam, he had never been more than 40 miles away from home.  Life had changed far less in the last 500 years before my father was born, than it has in the 100 years since.

       The Scriptures today speak of patience, like a farmer who tills the soil, waiting for a fruitful harvest.   Advent is the sacred time of expectation for us, as we prepare specifically for Christmas and more broadly for the Kingdom of God. We think of the Old Testament prophets waiting with urgent longing for the fulfillment of their deepest desires for justice, mercy and a peek at the face of God. 

       The Gospel presents John the Baptist suffering in prison, waiting to see if Jesus was truly the Christ, the One for whom he had sacrificed everything to prepare the way in the desert. In these December days, we contemplate the pregnant Virgin Mary, joyfully and wondrously awaiting the birth of Jesus.

       In a culture of instantaneous satisfaction, with the world at our fingertips, with an infinite variety of choices, patience and waiting are enormously difficult and sometimes almost impossible. And yet, delayed fulfillment of desire and hope is good for us.  If we got everything we wanted when we wanted it, we would become so sated, complacent, selfish, bored and tired of everything, life would become unbearable. We would be spiritually dead. 

       We have probably all met people who have no zest for living, who are bored with everything.  Nothing interests them. Been there, done that. I feel a great sadness for such folks because they are missing out on the great adventure of life and the joy of a simple existence wrapped in mystery, patience and work.

       Anything deeply worthwhile requires effort, time and love. Building a marriage, finishing college, conceiving and birthing a baby, painting a house, completing a big project at work, conducting a diocesan synod, raising children or growing in the spiritual life all require years of sacrifice, fidelity and patience.  If we throw in the towel out of frustration or exhaustion, the great, amazing, beautiful accomplishments of life will never find realization. If we try to rush the process, the results get spoiled as well. 

       Sometimes, nothing seems to be happening or getting finished. In such moments, the seed is sprouting and growing in the obscure depths of the soil. Like John the Baptist, we want to see the results of our efforts, but often we need to wait. The bread is still baking in the oven.

       When I am tempted towards impatience, when things are not moving forward fast enough, when I am stuck in traffic or a store line, when things in my life or the diocese are not going according to my plan, when I despair of ever praying well or becoming holy, when I want to quit or rush forward or run away, I need to ponder the patience of God.

       Think of God slowly and lovingly bringing forth creation, breathing life into Adam and Eve, envisioning the Covenant, waiting for the right moment to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, bearing their complaints in the desert, patiently sending the prophets one by one, all the while preparing the world so that, in the fullness of time, Jesus Christ would be born. 

       Think of Jesus’ patience - with the self-righteous Pharisees, the obtuse Apostles, the demanding crowds, the Roman executioners, the angry mob, me. Think of the Lord’s patience with us, waiting for us to respond to his gentle invitation, to confess our sins, to accept his mercy, to grow in love, to pick up ourselves for the hundredth time and start over. God is willing to wait us out for the entirety of our years if he can save us in the end.

       Like a mustard seed, a grain of wheat, a batch of yeast, the weeds among the wheat, the Word of God silently growing in the Virgin Mary, the Kingdom of God is slowly but steadily unfolding as it should. 

       We are actors in the great drama of salvation, but who are we to tell the Director to speed up the action?  In patience and God’s good time, the triumph of love, justice, mercy and life will find their fulfillment.

       In these Advent days, we wait on the Lord in stillness and darkness. Maybe, we are at the veritable dawn of Christianity. Maybe, the human race will go on for millions of years. However long this process of birthing the Kingdom may be, how much more gloriously will the Light of the world dazzle our eyes when we have had the spiritual strength to be patient.

 

+ Donald J. Hying

 

View Bishop Hying’s daily Advent reflections online at dcgary.org.

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