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The act of waiting

English Spanish Dolores Hanley McDiarmid Profile

I don’t know about you, but I have not mastered ‘the act of waiting’ and need a lot of practice. Waiting is the same as being patient, and patience is a virtue. As Catholics, we are fortunate to have special times set aside for us to practice waiting, one of which is Advent.

Now that we are in the Advent season, I find myself reflecting on the ‘act of waiting.’ Advent is a penitential time of preparation and hope but there is a certain amount of waiting involved. In fact, during this time the Church has given us four weeks to practice ‘the act of waiting.’

I read that there are two types of waiting: waiting when you don’t know the outcome and waiting when you know what you are waiting for. Regardless, if you are alive, there is no way to escape having to wait.

I remember years ago, walking into the hospital room to visit my mother. The first thing she said to me, with a degree of frustration, was “I spend all day waiting.” This was true. She was unable to do anything but wait for the people providing medical care throughout the day. From the moment she opened her eyes she waited for someone to get her out of bed, she waited for breakfast, she waited for the therapists and doctors to come in, and on and on until she fell asleep at night.

In some respects, even though it was not Lent or Advent, she was living her personal penitential season of hope. While she endured much suffering for many months, she lived in hope of God restoring her to good health and being able to return to her own home.

If we look at more recent times and reflect on our own lives experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to learn to navigate this new world while not knowing when this will end. For more than one year we have been waiting for several things to change that will allow us to experience a more normal life. In a way, we have been living a life of penitential hope for more than one year.

My mother’s experience in the hospital and all of us living during the pandemic are both examples of living in a season of penitential hope. In both situations, the outcome is uncertain. My mother did not know if she would go home, and the rest of us today continue to wonder how this pandemic will play out.

During Advent we live a different kind of penitential hope. Unlike my mother Helen, who was not able to do much of anything but wait, we have an opportunity to participate in our Church traditions while we are waiting. We can sacrifice time in front of the television or on technology and spend that time in prayer, talking with God as we adore Him, give Him thanks, and offer prayers of petition. We can also perform acts of charity.

We know the outcome of our waiting period. It is the arrival of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What we do and how we act during this period of waiting helps us to create a beautiful reception for our Lord when we receive Him in our hearts and in our lives on Christmas Day.

How will you be spending your time waiting? What kind of reception will you be preparing for our Lord when you welcome him into your heart on Christmas Day, upon receiving him in the Holy Eucharist?

May we experience a holy Advent season as we prepare and wait in hope for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Dolores Hanley McDiarmid
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