CIESIELSKI: Advent... What are we waiting for?

November 22, 2022

(Photo by Michelle Eisterhold/For the Herald)

The season of Advent is traditionally viewed as a season of waiting. Do you know what we, as Catholic Christians, are waiting for?

As a culture, we seem to be always waiting and in a hurry to get to the next thing on our to-do list. Waiting in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the weekend to arrive, waiting to see an old friend, waiting for a special event, waiting for a problem to be resolved.

Earlier this summer, I found myself in a waiting position as my mother shared with my brother and me a peaceful premonition she had of her impending death. During those final weeks of her life, my brother and I, who both lived a thousand miles away, called her daily.

We centered our time on sharing the things that truly matter in life — gratitude, forgiveness, trust in God’s mercy and recalling how meaningful her life of faith had been to so many people. We maximized the time of waiting to allow God’s presence to gently lead her home.
As we enter this Advent season, it is easy to allow Christmas preparations — whether commercial or otherwise — to distract us from remembering what we are waiting for and how to prepare ourselves during this waiting.

One of the great gifts of aging is the understanding that it is not all the doing or activity that is truly important as it is being present.
Being present to God in prayer, being attentive to our loved ones, to all of God’s children, and to creation itself. Whether our waiting is focused on celebrating the gift of Jesus at Christmas or the return of Jesus at the end of time, let us ponder the question that Jesus put to His disciples (Luke 8:18): “When the Son of Man comes again will He find faith on the earth?”

Jesus is telling His disciples that difficult times will come, but the way to remain grounded in faith is through prayer.

It is in prayer that the Holy Spirit strengthens and consoles us and helps us to persevere as faithful disciples. In prayer, the Holy Spirit enlightens us with wisdom and guides us with the courage to confront falsehoods.

In prayer, our hearts can be moved with the compassion of Christ to action where we respect the dignity of all people as children of God and treat the environment with respect. Simple words for prayer will suffice: “Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind and actions to love as Jesus loved. Amen.”

We begin to encounter Jesus as we feed the hungry, visit the lonely, elderly, imprisoned, and disabled, and seek to provide a place of security for refugees desperately searching for a place to call home.

Our hearts become transformed even to forgive and reconcile with our enemies. External walls come tumbling down because the walls of division within our own hearts crumble under the experience of Christ’s mercy.

Then we will see clearly that such waiting has brought forth the reign of the Kingdom of God with Christ as the Prince of Peace.

Mark Ciesielski is the director of the Office of Aging Ministry.