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Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Fruit of Impatience

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)

Aaron should have known better. Only 40 days earlier he, with his two of his sons and 70 elders of Israel, climbed Mt. Sinai with Moses. There they witnessed the terrifying and awe-inspiring glory of God as He overshadowed the mountain (Exodus 24:9-17). And more: they all sat and ate dinner with the King of Glory.

Six weeks later God called Moses up the mountainside to receive the Ten Commandments. As Moses turned to enter the cloud he told Aaron and the elders, ‘I will return. Wait for me’ (Exodus 24:1-18).  But after a little more than a month, as Moses delayed his return, the people grew impatient. So they said to Aaron – the one whom God had chosen as High Priest – “Make us a god who will go before us. As for this Moses, we don’t know what happened to him” (Exodus 32:1).

And for some inexplicable reason, Aaron – who had only 40 days earlier eaten with God and beheld His inexhaustible grandeur – Aaron acquiesced to the people and formed a golden calf to serve as their ‘god.’ (32:1-6).

You can’t make this stuff up.

You and I now sit on the other side of that Biblical history, and I wonder how much things have changed. Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus promised us, “I will come again” (John 14:1-3).  But like Aaron, the elders and the people in the Exodus account, have we grown impatient waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise – even (and perhaps especially) those of us who eat His flesh and blood at each Mass? How many of us actually wonder if Jesus really intends to return for us? And how many live unaware of their participation in St. Peter’s prophecy – and by their ignorance fulfill that prophecy: “[I]n the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,  and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4)?

Impatience.

The Apostle continued: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” And then he added: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness . . .?” (2 Peter 3:9-11)

Indeed, what sort of people ought we to be?

“I will come for you,” our Lord Jesus promised. And I suspect He expects us to believe it – and to act accordingly. But throughout Church history, even to this day, impatience has taken its toll. Like Aaron, the elders, and the rest of the people, many Christian leaders and laity alike seem to have forgotten the Lord’s warning directed toward His disciples: “[I]f that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:48-51). 

Truly, what sort of people ought we to be to whom the Lord has said, “I will return. Wait for me”? How should we live our lives to please Him who – with the warning – also told His disciples to continue His work until He returns (Luke 19:13)? Joshua’s exhortation to Israel after they entered the Promised Land is relevant to that question. He said, “. . . Choose this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord(Joshua 24:15).

Oh, Holy Spirit, help us to not grow impatient, and in our impatience lose our love and impassioned devotion for God.  Help us choose today – to choose now – to choose wisely. Amen.

4 comments:

Melanie Jean Juneau said...

AMEN

Barb Schoeneberger said...

The slave who cavorts with drunkards and fails to wait is one ruled by fear. If he acts right only in the presence of the Master, he doesn't truly love the Master. The ones who truly love the Master will wait patiently and live as if He is still present. So to me the question is, do I truly love Jesus? Is He a real person to me? If He is, then living as if He isn't, although I am a sinner, is not an option. I must exercise my faith muscles to keep in shape for the Grand Celebration upon His return.

Rich Maffeo said...

Barb, I like Fr. Pedro Arrupe's comment: "Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way."

"What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude."

"Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything."

Kathleen Basi said...

Barb, that's a great insight, and it encapsulates everything that's wrong with the most common vision of Christianity--this punitive, disciplinarian version in which the fear of Hell becomes the reason to behave, instead of doing it out of a positive desire to love God.

I try not to get caught up in the "when will he return" argument, because it doesn't really matter. I've always sort of figured that we shouldn't take those words any more literally than we do things about Noah being 900 years old, or whatever. I figure the end of time is individual, i.e. death. We don't know the day or hour Jesus is coming--for us.