Monday, November 30, 2020

Wilderness Waiting: A Reflection on the Second Sunday of Advent

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection at our parish blog on the Mass readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.

We're waiting… for a stack of Amazon boxes on the porch… for a COVID vaccine… for answers... for Christmas…

"...with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day." 
(2 Peter 3:8)

For many of us, 2020 feels more like 365,000 years than 365 days. And yet, we hear comfort in this week's Mass readings: God has purpose for our waiting.

"The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard 'delay,' but he is patient…" 
(2 Peter 3:9)

Perhaps your waiting is similar to ours—bouts of complacency, anxiety, impatience, furrowed brows, lost tempers, worry, hope… Advent reminds us that seasons of waiting are also opportunities for self-reflection and repentance. What am I doing? Where am I going? Why this long season of waiting?

We might find answers in a passage that's repeated several times this week, first in the book of Isaiah, then in the Gospel acclamation, and again in the Gospel:

"A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'"
(Mark 1:3, quoting Isaiah 40:3)

Even though they lived 700 years apart, Isaiah prophesied about John the Baptist's future road construction in the desert. John didn't build literal roads while he lived in the wilderness; he smoothed others' paths to Jesus—leveling proverbial valleys and mountains—to make God more accessible. And aren't there places within each of us that need to be encouraged, humbled, or calmed in order to see God's glory?

"Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God … Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low, the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed…" 
(Isaiah 40:4)

This year feels a little like a wilderness. The unique challenges of COVID are helping us rethink what it looks like to minister. We might find that God's work is simpler and more varied than what we've practiced in past years. What might Advent look like this year?

For our family, we want to focus on making Jesus more accessible to our kids, finding more silence and stillness during prayer together so our children can learn to clearly discern God's voice in their hearts and minds.

Perhaps another person will "prepare the way of the Lord" this Advent by:
  • emailing old friends to rekindle community
  • encouraging coworkers with kind words
  • calling relatives who miss family gatherings
  • leaving notes for neighbors who feel disconnected
  • simply starting each day in calm, quiet gratitude
In seasons of waiting, God works differently in each of us, raising valleys and lowering mountains to smooth our paths to him. How can I help "prepare the way of the Lord" in myself and for others this Advent?


*Also published December 2020 at Sacred Heart Parish Blog.

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