When we think of Lent, we are immediately focused on a time in which we prepare with six weeks of prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving. We, as Church, are waiting for the great feast of the Resurrection. Lent, then, is a time of waiting! But we know waiting is not limited to the Liturgical seasons, like Advent prior to Christmas and Lent before Easter; we are confronted every day to practice the virtue of waiting in both the spiritual and even in the secular world. We also know that we are not alone in waiting in life. It’s a universal test for humanity.
If we look to Scripture, we see various figures who also did some significant waiting. One example was Abraham who waited for the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would be the father of descendants more numerous than the stars of the night. Joseph waited for the fulfillment of a dream promised by God that he would become a leader and a powerful man. The people of Israel wandered through the desert for forty years to reach the Promised Land – a long wait indeed. These people of the Old Testament Scripture had to understand that their waiting would consist of the fulfillment of a promise or desire, but their waiting was for as long as God determined! As it was for these people so it is for us all in our time. However, it is obvious that our experiences of waiting will be different challenges for each of us.
On a more mundane level we wait endlessly in doctor’s offices, in traffic, for mail or package deliveries, for phone or email messages and the like. On another more significant, spiritual level we wait for answers to prayer. Whatever the situation, none of us likes to wait for anything in our lives, especially with God. Why? We want to be in charge and we want to have things happen according to our predetermined schedules. Also, society on the whole wants everything to be easy and fast. But God works on a very different timetable. To God, waiting can actually be a positive good that God uses to give us time to make ourselves more like his Son. What we don’t understand, theologian Bishop Barron reminds us, is that “God stands outside of space and time and his hours, days, years have a radically different meaning. What is a long time to us is an instant to God; what seems pointless in our minds can be the way God, in a unique and mysterious manner, is working his purposes out.” Another theologian, Richard Rohr, says: “Your life is not about you!” “But,” he also adds, “sadly we keep asking the question: Why isn’t God acting in the way WE want, WHEN we want it?” Perhaps we should seriously question, after hearing these profound statements of theologians: Is it possible we are waiting because we’re not on the track God wants?
Bishop Barron uses a little anecdote along these lines. The pilot comes on the intercom and says: I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we’re totally lost; the good news is that we’re making excellent time. The bishop points out that maybe we’re forced to wait because God wants us to reconsider the course, we’ve charted which might be hurling us down a dangerous road. Also, God, who is loving and caring behind all that God does, wants to teach us to be patient. Sadly, there are times when we do not trust God and we go ahead and find ways to accomplish what we want to happen. An anonymous author has given us valuable advice on the virtue of waiting when she pointed out that it is a matter of trust in God’s goodness today and understanding God’s faithfulness tomorrow.
Bishop Barron suggests two practices we might consider when we think about the challenge of waiting and its implications in our lives. Lent may be the perfect time to give them some serious thought.
Spend some time in what Barron calls spiritual waiting. In that time, review and pray about where we’re running, what we’re planning, and what we’re expecting from God. He reminds us, “In the end, just be patient and let God do God’s work in us.”
Look at our lives and analyze anything and everything that makes us wait. Understand that each happening is an expression of God’s work. Thus, we see waiting as a spiritual invitation to use the time to pray and shape our wills to that of God’s designs.
You might consider these two suggestions in choosing your Lenten practice this year. They may open a new path for you as you travel the six weeks journey to the celebration of the Resurrection. May you make this Lenten time a blessed wait for the great feast of Easter!