Are you a watchful, patient follower of the Lord?

This week's reflection is written by
Rev. Richard R. DeLillio, OSFS

As soon as he entered the room, Rosamae shouted out her question: “Why does God wait so long before he gives you what he promised?” Rosamae is Silverside Manor’s resident scholar. At every session of “Try to Stump the Teacher,” Rosamae tries to do just that. She lets loose with a question that tries to stump the teacher, but always in a jovial way.

The teacher replied, “Where’s that question coming from?” She answered, “I was reading how God promised Sarah and Abraham heirs measuring more than the stars in the sky and sands on the seashore.” Sensing she had the floor, she pushed ahead. “ It took years for that to happen. Wasn’t Sarah 90 years old when she gave birth to her son, Isaac, and Abraham one hundred?”

“At these ages how could Sarah and Abraham find either the energy or the patience to teach their only son, to talk, walk, and play.” On a roll, she added, “It just wouldn’t be any fun at their ages to be parents and have the stamina needed to perform the necessary duties and have some fun while doing it? God essentially punished them rather than rewarding them.” Feeling she made her point, she stopped and waited for comments.

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The teacher began his response pointing out that God usually writes straight with crooked lines. The teacher said this to remind us that God wants us to engage him with a little thought and consideration and then choose to follow him. God always wants us to choose him and to accept him rather than just give in without consideration. If we choose God we believe more deeply in what he is asking us to do. God desires faith first and foremost. Secondly, God wants believers to trust him and in what God promises. For God works best with disciples strong in faith and open to trusting what God promises to do. With faith, loyalty is better observed and with trust, promises are held more convincingly even when they have no precise timetable for redemption. Only God knows this.

While we wait for their fulfillment, God wants our loyalty and faithfulness. When God is satisfied, the promise is fulfilled. God has done this repeatedly through all his relationships with his chosen people.

After Sarah and Abraham, God did it for the Israelites in the desert. After freedom from the Egyptians,’ bondage, they endured years of wandering and grumbling there before crossing into their promised land.

God’s chosen people spent years as conquered peoples living in exile unreconciled with God and waiting for the messiah to free them and call them home. Finally, Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, freed them from sin reuniting them to their heavenly Father and reopening the heavenly gates.

Today we are still instructed to wait patiently loving God and neighbor while we do good works to build Jesus’ kingdom and preparing with faith and trust for the day of the Lord.

We wait as loyal followers to meet Jesus who comes to claim us as his own and invite us into the divine household forever. According to God’s plan, Jesus’ followers gain fulfillment only if they remain faithful, loyal, trusting, and vigilant.

St Francis de Sales offers this advice to faithful disciples who are waiting: “We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God. If at times we are somewhat stunned by the tempest never fear. Let us take breath and go on afresh.”

St. Paul also urges us to remain faithful in good times and in bad saying, “Faith is the realization of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Meanwhile, we wait trusting and watching for that special day when he keeps his promises and he sees that we also have kept ours. He will call his sheep into the fold he has prepared for so long a time.

Bishop Sheen called this “waiting Love’s delay.” Bishop Sheen is naming the waiting period between our praying and waiting for something and the time it takes for Jesus to respond to our request.

Ronald Rolheiser calls this same time “our holy longing,” the longing, the hunger only God can satisfy in each and every follower. We are made for God and our hearts are restless until we rest in him. And God is restless until we rest with him.

A Norwegian legend sees this waiting a bit more romantically. They say before God gives each person his or her soul, he kisses each one and no one forgets that moment. All through life they wait for that kiss to return. God is using our waiting period as a time to stretch and prepare us for his final coming.

Bishop Sheen adds that during “love’s delay” God is allowing our heart to expand patiently preparing believers to receive the fulfillment of whatever promise Jesus may be wanting to give at any special moment of our journey.

Jesus uses this waiting time to place the finishing touches, fill in the remaining weak spots, and rough areas so that we may become more than we are at that moment.“Love’s delay” is also part of this transformation, an ongoing conversion, for the final moment.

“Your people awaited the salvation of the just and the destruction of their foes,” we read in the book of Wisdom. “Blessed are the servants the master finds vigilant when he does come,” Luke tells us. The Lord desires followers who, while waiting, are always guiding their faith into action, building Jesus’ kingdom and serving others’ needs. When these occur, the day of the Lord is near!