“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” – Mt. 11:3

Visiting my family this past Thanksgiving showed me contrasting attitudes of waiting. I arrived impatient and hangry because of the heavy traffic. Yet, when I arrived, my niece Tiki erupted in joy. Her eyes widened, her smile skipped, her hug melted my impatience. She had been waiting patiently for me, for she trusted that I would come. Two different attitudes of waiting.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist had his moments of darkness. Imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, he doubted whether Jesus was the promised Messiah. Because Jesus’ mission has not fulfilled John’s expectations of fiery judgment, the latter had second thoughts. So he sent messengers to Jesus looking for answers. Instead of sending back reassurances, Jesus invited the messengers to open their eyes and ears to witness his life-giving actions: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, etc. Through them, Jesus asked John to let go of how he imagined the Messiah to come and be surprised by the ways through which God’s kingdom is in-breaking. 

Patient waiting can be hard, because it involves bearing suffering. The word “patience” comes from the Latin verb “patior,” meaning to “suffer.” Such suffering may take the form of a dying to our preferences, wants, agenda, timeline; it can take the form of letting go, of paying attention to what is happening here and now, especially feelings of discomfort, failure, loneliness.

What helps me is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s advice to “trust in the slow work of God” and to be patient with myself, accepting the “anxiety of feeling [my]self in suspense and incomplete.” Tiki is able to wait patiently. She is confident of my love, knowing that I will come, however delayed. When I shift the focus to the One who loves and delights in me, despite my sins and impatience, greater life emerges. Joy burgeons.  

Lord, help me to trust in your slow work in my impatient heart, widening my eyes to your surprising, life-giving ways.