What are we waiting for? We are waiting for Jesus to come, yes, for his advent. He makes the first move. It is true that we love him only because he has first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). It is true that it is he who has called us out of the darkness of sin into his marvelous light and life of grace (1 Pt 2:9). Someone might want to respond to those verses and say, “look, this is his coming and therefore I have no active role in his coming because it is Jesus who is doing the work, not me.” That’s considerate, but not appropriate. The response of love in the First Letter of John is not a passive and lethargic waste of time. The response of love carries with it exactly that – responsibility.
Responsibility of Love
I should not accept the grace of God in vain (2 Cor 6:1). I should not bury the talent God gives me even if I am upset that I only received one (Mt 25:14-30). I am not meant to hide a lamp under a bushel. You and I are meant to let our light so shine before others that they may see our good works and give glory to Our Father who is in heaven (Mt 5:14-16). And what if we don’t? Well in verse 13 Jesus is talking about what happens to salt that loses its’ taste, so you can apply that consequence to that question.
Life of Grace
There are some practical implications to being called out of darkness. Consider that not every person you know has the gift of faith. If that person dies tonight… ? Why is it “you” and “I” were chosen, were called, were elected, were drawn into His Sacred Heart? God reconciles us to himself through his Son so that we might be saved and that the people who believe through our word, through our testimony (or witness or martyrdom in Greek), may come to know Jesus Christ whom the Father has sent into the world. Did you know that to those who receive him and believe in his name are given power to become sons and daughters of God (Jn 1:12)? That Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20) is meant to be spoken to us. When Jesus sends out the disciples (Mt 10), that sending forth is not meant to end at the end of that chapter. It’s called a life of grace, not a helpful event that has minimal relevance to our lives.
Back to Advent
What does that look like practically? Well, I’m not sure. I know it involves prayer, the sacraments, evangelism, teaching, encouragement, correction, virtue, righteous speech, and so on. Is that all, or is that too much? Or, is that what the ordered and pure life looks like?
So, what is it we are waiting for? Tell me! We know the Lord and King of the Universe is coming, yes. We even have up to four weeks of the calendar dedicated to the preparation for his coming. Is that not reason enough to make haste in the ways we prepare, to make straight the way of the Lord? Are you, am I, under the impression that I deserve this gift, that he must submit to me (or you) in all that I or you do? Do you presume that, because this happens every year, it is not that big of a deal? I know many of us, myself included, have lost the sense of urgency, of immediacy, the one that the Gospel of Mark is so good at articulating.
If the answer is, “no that is not reason enough,” or “yes I presume,” it may be the case that he or she who gives that answer does not believe some things. These answers may be indicative of a lack of trust in God’s love. These answers may reveal that, though none of us are worthy of the life of grace, we die in shame and isolation instead of receiving the gift in humility and poverty. It is a life of grace, my friend, of course grace is not deserved: it is free, it is a gift, it is charis, or charity of Another.
The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge can teach us a couple things (Lk 18:1-8). Read the reason Jesus even told the parable… “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus wants us to be faithful. He wants to hear our petition. He wants us to respond to his invitation. Think of what the response is when we ask, seek, or knock (Mt 7:7). I mean, really, if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Lk 11:13; 5-12)!
What of the widow herself? She kept coming to the guy: persistence, perseverance. Yes, it’s worth persisting even in difficulty. Isn’t that what James writes to us (ch. 1:2-4)? Even though the unjust judge “neither feared God nor regarded man,” he vindicated her, “because she bothers me.” I’m not saying that 1) God is unjust nor that 2) we should pray to twist his arm into our will. Jesus offers this contrast: “will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night [hint-hint virtue of perseverance]? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily.”
Is this making sense? What are you waiting for? Read that again: day and night, speedily… and if he does seem to delay long, see if you can believe that you have been given the gift of long-suffering and are being made more resilient in endurance. Oh wait, the final verse of the parable reads: “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus will not coerce you into heaven, or virtue, or love. He will and does indeed lavish his love upon us, just as the Father does (1 Jn 3:1). Now, will we accept it? Not in vain, but in docility of heart. Jesus so deeply desires the enkindling of our faith: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” (Lk 12:49-50). I am confident that Jesus wants us to pray like the widow, and at the same time like the tax collector (Lk 18:9-14). Why do you think that parable came right after?
That fire he wants to cast is faith, and to do so in and by the power of the Holy Spirit, especially in and through the Sacraments. And that baptism he’s aching for? That’s his crucifixion. See what love he has for us, that while we were (more like are) yet sinners Christ Jesus died for us (Rom 5:8). The RSV says “constrained.” Other translations say “in anguish” or “straitened.” Can you or I begin to understand his love for us, his love that goes to the end?
So really, what are we waiting for?
-Believe and live like God loves you
-Pray with the heart of the widow and tax collector
-Read and pray with the widow and unjust judge parable
-Don’t answer the question, respond to it