For what are we waiting, and hoping, this Advent?

By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27

Isaiah 63:16b-17,19b; 64:2-7; Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

We begin a new year this Sunday, the beginning of the liturgical year. Newness seems to bring out a desire for change in the direction of our lives. It can be small, like a change in our eating habits, or it can be large, like a change in our spiritual life. We begin this year with changes in words of the Mass. Change often brings a renewed sense of hope.

Today’s readings engage us in a reflection on the human condition and the vicissitudes of the heart. The reading from Isaiah, set in the context of the postexilic age, speaks of a time of wavering hope for the Israelites. The author of Isaiah pleads with God to connect with the Israelites. He almost suggests that it is God’s fault that their hearts are hardened: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? . . . Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.”

The author’s plea belies an urgent hope, a hope that we can again turn our attention and hearts to God “the potter.” It is a plea that we break out of our hardness to really believe what St. Paul says: “no ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but You doing such deeds for those who wait.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Hope and waiting shape our reflection of Advent. Waiting is senseless without hope. But, for what are we truly waiting and hoping?

The Israelites became hardened of heart because they lost a sense of waiting for the Lord, and, thus, wavered in their hope. Are we waiting for God to “come down” into our lives to fashion anew the clay of our hearts, so that we are again softened to the incredible gift of God coming into our lives? Or is our waiting for much less than that?

Perhaps the larger question is: How are we waiting? Are we waiting for the Lord with hearts that are hardened to our way of doing things? Do we want God to “rend the heavens and come down” to take care of that for which we refuse to take responsibility?

The condition of our world and the world have much to do with how we wait. If we wait for the Lord to fix what we have become hardened to or have neglected ourselves, we are a bit like the Israelites who want to blame God for the circumstances of life. If we wait to listen to God, asking God to let us not be deaf to God’s holy Word, the silent Word that fills us with God’s peace, we will “not (be) lacking in any spiritual gift,” for “God is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

The Gospel continues the theme of waiting and hope. It certainly is true in my life that what parents teach has a lasting effect. I remember my father repeating the Gospel words of this Sunday many times: “Watch; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming. . . . May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” (Mark 13:36-37) Ironically, my father died suddenly. I have always believed that he had taken those words to heart in his own life. He understood what waiting is about.


SISTER RACHEL Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She serves as pastoral associate at St. Thomas th

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