Waiting is a fact of life that we all have to endure, whether it be for a doctor's appointment, for a spouse to get dressed and ready to go out for the evening, or any number of other reasons. I presume that having to wait is much more aggravating for people of my generation than it was when my parents were my age. Gadgets and machines perform their tasks more and more quickly all the time. The computer or appliance that makes one wait longer than its competitors do gets a bad reputation.
Soon we will begin the beautiful liturgical season of Advent which, although easily overshadowed by Christmas, has a distinct purpose. As churches embark on this season, the simple message of "waiting for the Lord's return in glory" will not sound the least bit enticing. So how do we communicate what this sacred time is about without it being a turn-off? I think the key is in the idea of "preparing."
Harkening back to the prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist proclaimed his own mission to all who came to him at the River Jordan, "A voice of one that cries in the desert: prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight." (Mark 1.3) To me, preparing is a substantial thing; it doesn't suggest the simple idleness of waiting around. If I have a clear concept of preparing for Christ's Second Coming, the main problem to overcome is my own apathy or slothfulness.
Those who prepare for the Lord do more with their lives, not less. But this is not with the understanding that one must earn the love God gives. Rather, I describe it as cooperating with God's grace and honoring Him by applying my abilities for His noble ends. Take, for example, John's urging that we "make his paths straight." What does that mean? Weak and fallible as we are, what can we do? Each of us, after an honest examination of conscience can identify certain roadblocks in our walk with Christ. What are the silly habits to which we cling, the attachments that distract us from being mindful of God's Spirit, or the choices that waste time that could be better spent? Each of these things may not in itself be a "whopper" that severs our relationship with God. But taken together, they do have a powerful cumulative effect. Eventually, perhaps we feel distant from the Lord and see a steep, narrow trail where a more navigable one should be. To put it bluntly, our smooth road is leading not to Heaven, but to destruction.
This Advent, I invite you to pray about how to actively prepare both for Christ's coming at the end of time and for Christ to have an honored place in your life today. This is no passive thing, but a labor of love.
The Rev. James Gross is pastor of St. Cecilia Catholic Church, Velva, and Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Karlsruhe.
Reflections, a mini-sermon written by Minot and area clergy, will appear each Saturday in The Minot Daily News. Clergy interested in writing a mini-sermon should contact Religion Editor Loretta Johnson at 857-1952 or Debbie Sandvold at 857-1950. The toll-free number is 1-800-735-3229.