Do you like to wait? I don’t. Oh, I like to think I like to wait because I like to think that I’m a better man, a better Christian, than I really am. So, do you like to wait? Probably not. Tom Petty had it right when he sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” F. Scott Fitzgerald said it this way, “The three worst things in life are to lie in bed and not to sleep, to try and please and not be able, and to wait for someone who does not come.” That’s true.
Perhaps that’s why Advent really resonates with us. It’s like life in that it’s about waiting. In life we wait to graduate; we wait to get married; we wait to get a promotion; we wait in line; we wait in our car; we wait to get pregnant…but not necessarily in that order. During the season of Advent the Church reminds us that waiting is an essential part of our religion. We wait on the coming of Our Lord; we wait for the consummation of all things; we wait for the final judgment; we wait on eternal life.
There’s just something painful about waiting. And that’s why it’s good for us. That’s why patience is a virtue. You’ll never acquire anything worth having in life without at least some measure of suffering. In this week’s epistle, St. James gives us a lesson on waiting that is worth sitting down to think about: “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”
We know that Christianity is a religion of fulfillment. The Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, are all proofs that our religion is one of fulfillment. But Christianity is also a religion of waiting. We wait in joyful expectation for the Second Coming of Our Lord. We wait for heaven and earth to be one. We wait for the New Jerusalem. That’s why, says Bishop Robert Barron, there’s a permanent Advent quality to Christian life. That’s one reason why we resonate with it, because it speaks of our whole life. We’re waiting for the Lord.”
But, it’s hard to wait, damn it! That’s why we need the virtue of patience. What is St. James trying to teach us? All things worth having, worth knowing, worth doing, take time. I like to cook. I enjoy making a good meal for my family. If I want to make it extra special, I know that I’m going to need three things: 1) Time 2) High quality ingredients 3) And a good beer. Think of the young man or woman who decides to become a lawyer. What will they need to become a successful one? Three things: 1) Time 2) Commitment to their studies 3) And a good beer. Anything in life that’s worth doing requires time, and that requires patience, which requires beer. Seriously, time does require patience. Without patience you’ll never see anything come to its fullness. You’ll never see the flower bloom.
That’s why St. James says, “Strengthen yourself.” Why? You’re going to need to pray, go to the Eucharist, confess your sins, engage in the Corporal Works of Mercy, and read your Bible if your going to learn to wait with patience. You strengthen yourself by doing these things. As Arch Deacon Luck likes to say, “You have your part to play in acquiring the virtue of patience.” So friend, play your part and God will do the rest.