Reflection: Dialogue with Questions of the Day. Waiting for God.

Samuel Beckett wrote the well-known play “Waiting for Godot”. What Becket had in mind by this title has for long been discussed. In a sense part of Christian belief is waiting for God, and Advent presents an ideal opportunity to reflect on it. Year after year, Advent has been a season of preparation for the “coming” of Jesus at Christmas. In fact the Latin word adventus behind the name of the season means “coming”. And during this period we try to reflect on Christ’s first coming and his second coming at the end of time. Waiting for the coming of God is an integral part of both the Old and the New Testaments, an intervention by God to punish wrongdoing and establish truth and justice in keeping with his own holiness and promises.

The first real appeal to God in the Bible to intervene for this purpose is by the prophet Habakkuk, about the year 609 B.C. The fierce armies of Babylon were advancing and wreaking havoc on the innocent people of Palestine, while God seemed to stand aloof and inactive. The prophet tells us that he stood on his prophetic watch-tower and made formal complaint to God on this matter. The Lord answered him in a solemn oracle as follows: “Write the vision down; inscribe it on writing tablets to be easily read. For the vision is for its appointed time; it hastens towards its end and will not lie. Although it may take some time, wait for it, for come it certainly will before too long. You see, anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb, but the upright will live through faithfulness”. This would hold for the divine plan in general and for God’s promises. They may be slow in being fulfilled, but God expects believers to accept his plan. Those who are not in agreement with this, not upright, will fall, while the upright are saved through their faithfulness, their perseverance, their patience, while waiting for God’s plan to become real.

It is in this spirit that we should wait for God, for the fulfilment of his promises and of the prophecies. Without this spirit, a person is lost. Of course, many of the prophecies made by the prophets have been fulfilled, and the magnificent vision of a glorious future of Second Isaiah gave courage to the dispirited exiles, even though they were not to be literally fulfilled. In a sense they were fulfilled in the New Testament. How the future and the end of history were to come about was the Father’s secret, a secret not known to Jesus or Paul, a fact which did not in any way impede their preaching of the good news. Some of Jesus’ words could lead one to believe that his own return and the end were to come during the lifetime of his listeners, a belief that was a cause of scandal for some early Christians. The author of the Second Letter of Peter reminds those Christians to reflect on the mercy and patience of God, and that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day.

As we Christians wait for God, it is not for some unknown God, but for the unseen God who has revealed himself and who, with his Son and the Holy Spirit, is with us always to end of time. For us, waiting for God is waiting for the fulfilment of his promises, and for the coming of his kingdom, an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace, as the preface for the Feast of Christ the King expresses it.

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