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Nov 01, 2021 113 Deacon Jim McFadden,
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Waiting in Advent

Amidst the chaos of life, have you ever wondered where this will all end? Then, this is for you!

Carly Simon’s 1970s hit song proclaimed, “Anticipation is makin’ me late, is keepin’ me waitin’.” As members of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, that lyric reminds us that we too are hard-wired for anticipation—anticipation of the coming of Christ within our hearts. And for that to happen, we need to be vigilant and expectant, especially during times of uncertainty and travail.

Troubled Waters

During the pandemic, we have all experienced calamity and loss. World-wide, millions have been infected by, or lost to, this dreaded virus. Probably no reader of this reflection has been unaffected by Covid-19.

As we navigate through these troubled waters, we can sometimes feel all alone. Like the ancient Israelites exiled in Babylon, we may feel like we are held captive by forces we cannot overcome. Dealing with uncertainty and bleakness, we might wonder, “When all this is going to end, when will God put an end to the darkness and allow us to find Him in the chaos?” During these trying times it can seem that God is simply “missing in action”.

So, how do we make sense of all of this? The prophet Isaiah, addressing the Israelites as they returned from Exile, offered a vivid image to help us process this with our contemporary experience. He says, “O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay and You are the potter: we are all the work of Your hands” (65:7).

Fashioned by God?

Let us unpack this image. As revealed in the Old Testament, God is intimately involved in salvation history and the work of creation and redemption. At the Burning Bush (cf. Exodus 3:7-10), God revealed Himself to Moses as ‘Yahweh’: I AM. Therefore, God’s actions are always present to us here and now—not in the past, not in the future, but in this moment, in the Eternal Now. The great Church Father Saint Irenaeus (202 A.D.), said that “God is unmade; He is the Creator. But we, His creatures, are continually being made.” We are being shaped by an artist trying to fashion us into something pleasing to Him, if we will to be molded, and this creative action is happening right here, right now— there are no exceptions!

How does God fashion us? As the contemporary spiritual writer Paula d’Arcy has said, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” God shapes us through everything that happens to us: success and failure; gain and loss; sickness and health; times of plenty and financial setbacks. There is nothing God cannot use to shape us. I am not saying God causes things like the pandemic— to happen, but He can use everything for His purposes.

And, so, like ancient Israel in exile, we wait with anticipation. We wait, we watch, we cry out to the Lord. But, while we do, we keep the image of the potter in mind. We are the clay in God’s hands. Moreover, this potter is not distant or aloof. He is immediately and intimately present here as our sacred story unfolds. He is carefully molding us into the people He wants us to be.

Wait for that divine action in your life; watch for it and celebrate it, even in these uncertain times

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Deacon Jim McFadden

Deacon Jim McFadden ministers at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Folsom, California. He is a teacher of Theology and serves in adult faith formation and spiritual direction.

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