God's Word on Sunday: With patience, it will come to pass in God’s time

  • January 26, 2020

Presentation of the Lord (Year A) Feb. 2, Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24; Hebrews 2:10-22, 13b-18; Luke 2:22-40

Saints and ascetics have often achieved great feats of self-denial and mortification. But there is a spiritual practice that is far more difficult although not as showy, and it is reserved for spiritually mature individuals. This is the art/skill of waiting — but only with the correct frame of mind. 

Most people fidget, fume, look at their watch or try to distract themselves — usually with their smartphone. This is merely passing the time. One who practises patience does so without anxiety or distractions. They remain focused on what is before them and engaged with the ideals and spiritual practices to which they have committed themselves. These folks do not become disheartened or disillusioned when things don’t go according to their schedule — in fact, some might not even have a schedule in mind. They are willing and able to wait in peace and hope, confident that all will come to pass in God’s time. In the meantime, they are a source of comfort and encouragement to others. 

The people of Israel knew how to wait, although there were moments when even their patience wore thin. We run across the plaintive wail, “How long, O Lord?” in a number of places. But they never doubted that God would be faithful. 

Malachi — which means my messenger — was written after the exile, and the author longs for a renewal of the nation and a cleansing of the land. Corruption seemed to rule the land in the form of social and economic injustice, corrupt religious practices and poor leadership, and spiritual apathy. The message that it brought was that a day of reckoning was on the horizon. Purification would be the order of the day, but it would not be pleasant, for the image of a refiner’s fire was used to describe the process. It would be a painful time but would be followed by a return to the ways of God and well-being for the nation. The author clearly expected that this would occur in the not-so-distant future, but that was not to be. 

But that did not dampen the spirits of those who waited. As in all prophecies, the message resonated more than once in different periods of history. In many respects, we all still wait for the world to be set right and for justice, peace and spiritual values to reign. We must remain focused on that hope. It doesn’t matter how long the process will take, God is faithful.

The message of Hebrews is stunning, but we often do not fully understand its importance. For the redemption and sanctification of humanity, Jesus was willing to take on the burdens and limitations of humanity. It was through His suffering and struggle that He was perfected and prepared to be a compassionate high priest. Since He shared our humanity and suffering, He has a special bond with us, joyfully calling us His brothers and sisters. We can never say that no one cares or that we are alone. Hopefully, our own pain and struggle will make us more compassionate and kind to others.

Luke’s Gospel linked the presentation of Jesus in the temple with the promised messenger of Malachi, the messenger who would enter God’s temple. Simeon and Anna had devoted a good portion of their lives to holy waiting. They were often in the temple, praying and watching. They might have been viewed as rather eccentric, evoking smiles or rolled eyes from some of the temple personnel. But it is the true watchers and waiters who hold the world together. As they prayed, they listened and watched, waiting for something that they could not put into words. That day began like any other, but then Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple to offer the prescribed sacrifice and present Him to the Lord. 

Among the hundreds of people present in the temple precincts, one infant stood out of the crowds and the noise: Jesus. There was instant recognition by Simeon and Anna, and both gave fitting praise and a bit of warning. Their mission of patient waiting was over. Things would never be the same. 

Amid the noisy chaos of our world, let us learn how to wait and watch with patience. We will recognize the presence of God and proclaim this good news to waiting hearts.