On waiting: A Simbang Gabi homily
The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which literally means "arrival" or "coming." The Advent season reminds us how humanity waited for centuries for the coming of the Messiah. Prophets spoke of his coming until God made way for the birth of John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus. And then finally, in the small town of Bethlehem, a series of events quietly unfolded that changed the world for eternity.
A cry from a newborn baby was heard echoing in the stillness of the night. An army of angels gloriously announced his birth before a group of astonished shepherds. And wise men, guided by the heavens, carefully traversed the town in search of him. That starry night, that silent night, that first Christmas, was the fulfillment of God's promises.
So much of the spirituality of Advent is really the spirituality of waiting. There are many kinds of waiting. Some "waitings" can be filled with anxiety. Students who are waiting for the results of their exams become very anxious.
Some "waitings" can be filled with uncertainty. In the prisons, most of the inmates wait for years for a visit by their loved ones. They wait with so much uncertainty. Even their letters were not responded to. Parang na-seenzone lang. Some of them have been completely forgotten even by their families.
Some "waitings" can be filled with fear. Who among us dread to see our doctors for medical check-up and to wait for the results? Some "waitings" can be filled with anxiety, uncertainty, and fear.
But my dear brothers and sisters, that is not the waiting that we are talking about in Advent. The waiting in Advent is not waiting with anxiety, uncertainty, or fear. It is not waiting in vain.
Hindi ito pag-aabang sa wala kundi pag-aabang sa meron. In Advent, we call this waiting as joyful expectation. Hindi ka iiwan sa ere ng Panginoon. Hindi paasa ang Panginoon. Siya ang pag-asa. There is an assurance and certainty that someone listens and answers our prayers.
That is why last Sunday, we lit the rose pink candle of the Advent wreath. It is called the Gaudete candle. Gaudete is the Latin word for joy. This joy comes from an assurance that there is a God who answers our prayers and fulfills his promises.
Go back to your prayers when God answered them exactly as you prayed them to be. I am very sure you have many of these. Remember that day when you prayed for a miracle and God granted them.
Yet there are also those prayers when God is seemingly quiet. Who among us have prayed for years and waited for the healing of our parents or godparents of their sickness? Who among us have prayed unceasingly for our son or brother to completely overcome his recurring and seemingly incurable addiction? Who among us have begged God for a good job and yet God seems to be not paying attention?
But if you look back to these seemingly unanswered prayers, these are the prayers that brought you down to your knees, these are the prayers that made you seek God more and rediscover your faith, these are the prayers that made you learn to trust in His divine will and eventually brought you closer to God. And then, in the end, you realize that these are better than what you actually prayed for.
If we human beings, weak, fragile, broken, wounded, and sinful, know how to love and desire good things for the people we love, Diyos pa kaya? Hindi tayo matitiis ng Panginoon. In the end, God grants all our prayers only in His time, and in the manner that is best for us. So in the meantime, we learn to wait; but we wait in joyful expectation, with hope. We don't give up. We hang on to the promises of God. We hold on to what the angel said in our Gospel today, "Do not be afraid for God listens to our prayers."
This is what Advent and Christmas is all about. Peter Kreeft, author of several books on Christian philosophy and theology, once wrote: "Jesus came. He entered time and space and suffering. Out of our tears, our waiting, our darkness, our agonized aloneness, out of our weeping and wondering, out of our cry, 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?' He came, all the way, right into that cry."
My dear brothers and sisters, what are your experiences of waiting these days? I think the more important question is this: what person have you become in your waiting?
May we continue to wait with hope and joyful expectation knowing that God, the Emmanuel, is already with us, who also waits for us.
Amen. – Rappler.com
Father Roseller "Ro" Atilano Jr is a Jesuit priest. Ordained in 2017, he was first assigned to the New Bilibid Prisons. He is now campus ministry head of the junior and senior high schools of Ateneo de Manila University. He delivered this homily during the Simbang Gabi in Ateneo's Church of the Gesù on December 19, 2018.