Advent is the season of graced expectation, the season of waiting. Our experiences of waiting range from the mind-numbing wait in a queue of traffic, to the giddy expectation of a loved relative or friend, coming through the arrival doors at an airport.
Sometimes the wait is experienced as deadening, as a waste of time and energy, mere frustration. Sometimes the wait is experienced as anticipation, a kind of foretaste, almost a part of the actual joy of encounter. These are two very different experiences of waiting!
Advent is certainly meant to be the latter kind of waiting. We are moving through a period of graced expectation. The liturgy of Advent is full of promise.
The Scripture we hear during our Advent liturgies tells us, ‘a voice is calling in the wilderness, prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight!’ (Isaiah 40: 3-5).
Isaiah gives us the image of a maiden with child, perhaps our greatest image of hope and promise, and he tells us that a people who have walked in darkness have seen a new light. Having lived for too long in a land of shadows and deep darkness, we are guided by a new, radiant light (cf. Matthew 2: 10-11).
In other words, God is coming to meet us, god is reaching out and life will be graced, life will be blessed by God’s unfailing promise.
For those discerning a vocation to priesthood or the Religious Life, there is a necessary period of wating. It can be an anxious wait, even a tiresome wait. It can be a time filled with frustrations, second guessing, worries and doubts. Or it can be a graced period, during which the desire which God has given, taking the form of a call to service, matures, deepens and is proved.
My message to all those discerning a vocation to our Franciscan way of life is ‘Advent is your season!’ The Church liturgies, the Old Testament prophesies and the Gospels are speaking about the necessary, graced wait, by means of which God prepares us for a wonderful gift! Live this time of waiting with expectation, with joy and with trust.
Take Our Lady as your model. God is not absent during your times of waiting; God is creatively at work in the ‘in between times’ of your life, helping you to make a full and joyful response to His call.
Happy Advent! And bless you, for waiting!
Friar Liam Kelly OFM