9/21/2017 9:00:00 AM WORD OF FAITH We must be actively waiting
BY REV. ANTHONY LIGATO
FROM A READING FOR SEPT. 24, 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts...' -- Is 55:9
Nothing builds anxiety more than waiting.
We become anxious when we are waiting for a flight to take off that has been delayed. We become anxious when waiting for a family member to return home on a stormy night. We become anxious when awaiting for the results of a medical test. We become anxious waiting to hear if we got a job.
In each of these situations, we are not simply waiting; we are actively waiting.
When we are waiting to hear about a flight, we actively wait by watching the arrivals and departures board. We are not idly sitting by; we are actively waiting by saying a prayer that the flight will take off safely.
When we wait for a family member to return home on a stormy night, we are not just pacing the floor; we are checking weather reports and road closures. We try to stay in touch with them by cell phone. We pray they get home safely.
When waiting for medical test results, we look for options in case the results are not favorable. We know we must take our destiny in our own hands, so we pray and ask for prayers and seek the sacrament of anointing of the sick.
When we are waiting to hear if we received a job, we don't put our eggs all into one basket. We interview for other jobs, as well. We actively wait by exploring all the opportunities that are before us so we are ready to receive them.
When we think of active waiting, we think in terms of ourselves -- but no one has done more active waiting than the Lord.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob waited for their descendants to respond to the call of God's divine initiative of salvation. God sent a message from Isaiah to an Israel that was in exile in Babylon for almost 70 years, revealing a God who actively waited for a response from the people of Israel: "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near" (Is 55:6)
The Lord was near to the people of Israel. They were not forsaken in exile. How did they know God was actively waiting? God gave words of encouragement to the people. God was waiting for Israel to turn back to faithfulness, and God would return Israel to the land: "Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God who is generous in forgiving" (Is 55:7).
As God actively waited for Israel's response, God sowed the seeds of faith with the promise of a messiah who would establish an everlasting kingdom.
The kingdom is a powerful image in the Gospel of Matthew (18:21-25). The kingdom is found in the community of the Church. Matthew describes the community gathered together as "ecclesia," from which our word "Church" is derived.
We are Church
The Church is not a building or institution. It is the community gathered together, in which the image of the kingdom of God can be seen. The community actively waits for the coming of the Lord and, in doing so, realizes the kingdom is here and now.
Matthew's image is of a kingdom that is already but not yet: "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for the vineyard." We are the laborers who are asked to work in the vineyard of the Lord and realize God's kingdom here and now.
As laborers, we are also actively waiting for the Lord, building up God's kingdom in preparation for the future coming of the Lord. St. Paul tells us this is reflected in how we live our lives as Christian people: "Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (Phil 1:24).
Just as the laborers were waiting to be hired, the Lord actively waited for them to be ready to be hired. Psalm 145 reminds us, "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him." As we actively wait, we pray and we build up the kingdom, and we call upon Him.