Nobody likes to wait. Talk to anyone who has been stuck in a traffic jam, or has stood at the end of a congested grocery checkout, or has waited for a package to arrive in the mail. All will agree – waiting sucks. But whether we like it or not it, waiting is a necessary part of life – so we might as well learn to wait well.
As it happens, Advent is a time for waiting. Saint John Henry Newman wrote as much when he stated:
Advent is a time of waiting, it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. This ‘vigilance’ means the necessity, the urgency of an industrious, living ‘wait’. To make all this happen, then we need to wake up, as we are warned by the apostle to the Gentiles, in today’s reading to the Romans: ‘Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rm 13:11).
Today’s gospel also calls us to wait well – and as Newman said, the key to waiting is vigilance. To be vigilant simply means to stay awake. As Matthew says, “stay awake, for you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Mt 24:42). This staying awake does not refer to a physical state (as though Jesus is commanding us to never sleep), but to a spiritual readiness. We must not let our faith, hope or love sleep! We must remind ourselves continually, and especially during Advent, that the Lord will come again.
During this Advent season, let us wait for the Lord vigilantly, for only if we wait vigilantly will we be prepared for his coming.
Ian Mahood – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
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