As a semi-regular feature, Pray Tell will be running “Thoughts on This Sunday,” which will be some rather informal remarks on the readings for the upcoming Sunday. These are not complete homilies or even comprehensive notes on the readings, but simply some ideas or texts to get the homiletic juices flowing.
We modern Westerners don’t go in for apocalyptic much these days, perhaps because we are pretty comfortable with the way things are and are not particularly anxious for their overturning. But both the first and second readings present eschatological hope in terms of dramatic, cosmic transformation: mountains being made low, rugged land being made plains, the heavens passing away with a might roar, and the element being dissolved by fire.
The Second Letter of Peter goes on to pose this interesting question: “Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be?” (I couldn’t help but notice that the American lectionary omits the question mark in this sentence). Peter provides something of an answer as well: we should be “waiting for and hastening the coming day of God.”
With regard to God’s consummation of history, we both “wait” and “hasten.” Here is the paradox of all of us who live between the times. We are not in charge of history’s consummation. God is. And so our stance within history is one of waiting. But somehow, in ways that are often hidden, our anxious waiting is the means by which we hasten the kingdom. Our waiting is active, not passive. As the book of Revelation says, both the Spirit and the Bride say “Come.”
Perhaps John the Baptist, who appears in today’s Gospel, is the model of this waiting that hastens. John is hardly passive – crying out, calling people to repentance – yet his stance is entirely one of anticipation. His hope is not grounded in his own efforts, but in “one mightier than I.”
Parents – particularly parents of teenagers – often have the seemingly conflicting desire that their children both be patient with themselves and not try to rush adulthood, and at the same time take charge of their lives and do something. Growing into adulthood takes time, but it also doesn’t happen unless we actively seek to become adults. Otherwise, we remain arrested adolescents. This is perhaps a shadowing image of God’s desires for us: both that we wait patiently for the fulfillment of the Kingdom and at the same time actively work to hasten it.
The new translation of the Missal is perhaps a good occasion for us to exercise the waiting that hastens. We certainly need to try to learn the new responses, to proclaim well the new texts, and – most importantly – to pray in these new words. But we must also be patient; these things take time. The waiting that hastens is not a comfortable place to be, but it is where we live as Christians.