Mark 13:33-37, 1st Sunday of Advent
We wait. Everyday, we wait.
We wait for the alarm clock to shake us out of our stupor. We wait for breakfast. We wait for meetings and classes—to begin and end. We wait for lunch to be served. Wait to end our day. We wait for our rides back home. We wait for supper. And we wait for sleep to visit us. All throughout our life we wait. We wait to begin school. We wait for no classes and weekends and summer break. We wait for graduation. We wait to begin work. We wait for our pay. We wait to settle down. We wait to have children. We wait for our children to begin school. We wait for them to graduate. We wait for them to begin work and settle down. We wait for retirement. We wait to avail of our Senior Citizens’ privileges. And then we wait for death! We also wait for our plans to mature. We wait for our dreams to materialize. We wait for the right moment. If we have been waiting all our lives, then we must have mastered or we must already be mastering the art of waiting, have we?
Mind you, the act of waiting can be very stressful! We do a lot of regrettable things and wander off just to ease our stressful waiting. So, on this first Sunday of Advent, we focus on that one aspect of waiting—that is, when we wander: when, in the process of waiting, we make wrong decisions or when, out of fear to make wrong decisions, we let the circumstances decide for us.
The first reading renders this experience very palpable when the prophet Isaiah cries out: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!” I sense so much desperation in those words. Like someone who is waiting all her life for the right one to come along. Like someone who is confronted with the choicest of career choices. Or like a couple who have been waiting for a child or someone anticipating the realization of his lifelong dream but nothing is still in sight. Some take the matters into their own hands. Others doubt and give up. Others let the circumstances decide for them. So what do we do when we fall into this seeming trap?
In the spirit of the penitential mood of the season of Advent, we reflect on Isaiah’s cry: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways,…?” St. Paul, in the Second Reading, however, tells us: “the grace of God (is) bestowed on us in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse, and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among us, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus.” So, what now? It is as if the Lord is saying, “Don’t ask me. I have equipped you in every way. Ask yourself.” The very act of asking ourselves leaves us examining our own doings and un-doings—the times we hardened our hearts, and deafened our ears, and blinded our eyes from the ways of the Lord and his desires for us. We feel regret and remorse and guilt. Should we be stuck in this rut forever and just merely lick our wounds in self-pity and regret?
Today’s Psalm points us to a way out of the rut. Out of anguish, the Psalmist desperately cries: “Lord, make us turn to you and we will be saved!” The Psalmist implores God to look down from His heavenly throne—to save and shepherd His people. And Isaiah, in the last line of today’s reading, reminds God and the people: “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all work of your hands!” What a beautiful way to humbly come to terms with our own limitations before a loving Father who holds us and molds us with his hands! We realize that like the clay in the potter hands, we can be stubborn and resistant but we are still in the potter’s hands— and the potter has a way of molding and remolding, shaping and reshaping us. We can never be stuck in that rut forever. We just have to trust—to trust in the slow work of God in us, to be patient with our ways of responding to the potter’s shaping and reshaping us, and to see our wanderings (our wrong decisions and indecisions) not as ends in themselves but as means towards becoming who we truly are…
Come to think of it. Don’t our wanderings lead us “not to want the very wandering we are so prone to want?” Don’t our wonderings (why God allowed us to wander), increase our desire for God and seek only His will? Don’t these wanderings and wonderings transform our waiting actions and inactions into authentic waiting for God? On this first Sunday of Advent, we ask for the grace to see our wanderings (our wrong decisions and indecisions) and our wonderings (about why God allowed us to wander) as opportunities to gradually learn what it means to truly wait and become genuine wait-ers.