The Slowness of God
This post is inspired by a chapter in Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth. It is a letter that was given to the writer’s boyfriend to explain her appreciation for God’s timing and the importance of waiting.
Being in a committed relationship is quite an accomplishment considering the time period we live in, which is predominantly based on the pursuit of pleasure. It is also the age of rampant infidelity and the inability to commit to one person. What is even more surprising is being in the early-twenties and practicing Catholics. This sure seems like a lot of burdens and restrictions for a young man and woman to face. I am certain most people would utter “impossible!” if they knew all of these details of our life together. But here we are, seven years later. I think it is fair to say that this is something we can be proud of and perhaps it is also a good indication of our stubbornness and determination.
Before I met you, every opportunity that was presented to me where I could make a wish, such as birthdays, New Year’s, or shooting stars, I would make the same wish. I would close my eyes and ask for somebody to finally come into my life and love me. I so desperately wanted to be loved and needed. And after years of wishing, you came into my life. All of that wishing was, unbeknownst to me, a prayer. I did not think God was out there or interested in listening to someone as insignificant as me…but things like that could never stop the Creator of the universe.
God moves ever so slowly and gently throughout all existence. He is not one for dramatic appearances or flashy surprises, rather He bides His infinite time. If we ponder the history and progression of our universe then we clearly see God’s nature, nothing is rushed and everything is revealed in due time according to His grand design. In Genesis, we see the gradual progression of the creation of Earth. Day by day, new things are revealed; sky, water, and dirt, everything that will contain God’s greatest creation of all: man and woman. For Adam “there was not found a helper like himself”, so God, recognizing that it is not good for man to be alone, took one rib from him in order to create woman. John Paul II said that the first exclamation of love can be attributed to Adam when he says: “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.”
When Adam and Eve fall, God does not abandon them but promises them salvation. He says to Satan: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” Furthermore, we see that the Father clothes his children before they depart from the garden. This reminds me of a passage from Matthew: “Be not solicitous therefore, saying, what shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.” This is a wonderful testament God’s enduring compassion for us despite the amount of times we fail him by deliberately disregarding His decrees. How appropriate is this image when we reflect on the many times we sin and cast ourselves from the Garden He has provided for us. How much more privileged are we than Adam and Eve to have the sacrament of reconciliation, so we can restore our relationship with Him at any given moment, in comparison to how long Adam and Eve had to wait for Christ. However, we could not have this gift without the ultimate restorative privilege of Mary’s fiat, her unfaltering “yes” to the Almighty to deliver Christ into this fallen world.
We must be reminded of the men and women who waited throughout those centuries. Firm in their faith and knowing God fulfills all His promises, they not only waited for the coming of the Messiah, but prepared the way for him. Zechariah and Elizabeth “were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame.” Despite their old age and Elizabeth’s barrenness, the Archangel Gabriel came to Zechariah telling him that he will have a son named John, who ultimately prepared the way for Jesus. Similarly, at the annunciation, Gabriel came to Mary, a lowly maiden, to give her the greatest news of all; she will be the mother of the Savior. Although we do not know many details about St. Joseph, we do know that he was righteous and fulfilled his duty as a husband and father, a great responsibility that the ultimate Father gave him. Lastly, Simeon and Anna spent their whole life in and around the temple in Jerusalem waiting for what Simeon called the consolation of Israel. He received “an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.” Simeon was not only able to behold Him but actually held the infant who is the salvation of the world. Only then could he exclaim to God: “now thou dost dismiss thy servant”. Anna was a widow who “departed not from the temple, by fasting and prayers serving night and day”. She saw Simeon holding the infant and “confessed to the Lord; and spoke of Him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel.” Ultimately these six people show us the virtue and rewards of waiting for our quiet Lord to act according to His will.
As these holy men and women and their ancestors before them waited for the light of God’s love, we can assume that there were many challenges in their lives. Struggle and pain is a common thread running through each human life, and it is inescapable. It is even more important to realize that although all of the men and women mentioned above received the ultimate reward for their steadfast faithfulness, an intimate encounter with the person of God, they were not necessarily spared from suffering. This is something I had to understand throughout my faith journey. I assumed that I would have unlimited strength and courage to live a faithful life for God. The truth is my encounter with Him was just one way for Him to encourage me to seek His face and to live by His tenants, but He never promised me, or any other Christian, that there would not be suffering on this narrow road towards finally meeting Him face to face.
We know and trust that Christ was present on Earth and has become a bridge for us to reach the Father. We profess each Sunday that Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, that His kingdom will have no end. Just as our ancestors in faith patiently waited and saw the fulfillment of God’s plans for their time, so we await our King.
Will you wait with me?