[Isaiah 40:25-31 / 1 John 3:1-3 / John 16:16-22]
Waiting. We spend lots of our time doing it. Waiting in lines at the store. Sitting in a waiting room, waiting for the doctor to come out. Waiting for the crunch of the gravel in the drive that lets you know that your teen has made it home safe again and you can finally drift off to real sleep. Waiting for an organ that has been out of commission for five months to sound again. We spend a lot of our time waiting. And we don’t enjoy it one little bit.
Then along comes Isaiah, and he speaks about waiting, but in entirely positive terms. “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Instead of waiting wearying us, exhausting us, wearing thin our patience and our kindness, the prophet suggests that waiting is invigorating, strengthening, fulfilling. But, of course, he wasn’t referring to just any kind of waiting. He was talking about waiting “for the Lord.”
What does that mean for Christians? Think of our epistle and today’s Holy Gospel. The epistle first. The Apostle John cries out: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” He means it. By our baptism into Jesus, all that is Jesus’ has been given to us. He is the beloved Son of the Father, and when we are baptized into Him, WE are the beloved children of God. His Father becomes our Father. His inheritance becomes ours. Everything that is His, He gives to us, including especially a life that death cannot destroy.
It works that way because He came to take all that was ours on Him. Not only our death, but also our sin, and everything that our sin deserved. He bore it all for us on His cross to gives us all that is His through Baptism in the name of the Blessed Trinity.
But of course, the world knows nothing of this. Sees us as just ordinary people, and it can’t be otherwise. After all, “The reason why the world does not know us (that is, know us as God’s beloved children) is because it didn’t know Him.” But the real problem comes when WE forget and see ourselves that way. When we forget to BE who we really ARE, to ACT in accordance with our high calling.
You see, we ARE God’s children right now. But we’re His waiting children. We’re waiting on the Lord. We’re waiting and looking forward to a glorious moment: that instant when Christ Himself appears, the Parousia or Presence of the Lord, His “coming” that is really much more an unveiling of His hidden presence than a movement from place to place. He “comes” by unveiling the truth that He has always been here, hidden with in the life of His Church, and so His “appearing” is not just His appearing alone: in an instant we will be changed and we shall be like Him – in bodies incorruptible, filled with light, shining with the glory of God. Right now, we walk around cloaked – our glory hidden and unknown by all those around us – but the moment of unveiling will come at His appearing. And we’re eagerly waiting for it.
“And everyone” says St. John “who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” You see, if you’re waiting for that glorious moment when you will be revealed to be a child of the Eternal Father and an heir of the home that He has prepared, you take care to start living that way already. Even without the glorious robes of our future nobility, we seek to live as princes who are dressed as paupers in this world. Just like it was for our Lord. So we want our behavior while we wait to reflect always the hope that is ours in Jesus: the hope of the children’s great unveiling at the Appearing of the Savior when the triumph of love is revealed.
But waiting CAN be painful. “A little while” Jesus says repeatedly in today’s Gospel. Think of the little ones on a journey: “Are we there yet? How much longer?” And the dreaded answer: “A little while.” Grr. Jesus speaks to His apostles the very night before He enters His Passover. He warns them that they will not see him – obviously meaning his death – but then He will see them again and their hearts will rejoice and no one will be able to take their joy away – obviously meaning His resurrection.
But the Church reads these words today not just thinking about the Apostles and the past. For since our Lord’s Ascension, we also live in “the little while” of our Lord. We live waiting for that moment when “He will see us again” The joyful moment of His return, which will be the rebirth of the creation. “See, I make all things new.”
And so we wait, and sometimes in our impatience and fear we cry: “O Lord, how long?” Comes the sweet voice of our Lord: “It’s only a little while.” For when we are going through the very real difficulties, fears, and trials of this age, we need to hold onto that “a little while.” Think of how St. Basil put it: "The complete human existence is only a tiny interval compared with the endless age our hopes rest in." (St. Basil the Great, Letter 140)
Set against the inheritance that Christ has won for us – an eternal inheritance, an eternal life, unending joys and a family reunion that goes on to endless days – compared to this our entire earthly pilgrimage is only “a little while.”
And so we wait. And when the wait grows difficult and we’re tempted to forget what it is that we are waiting for or who we are in the Beloved Son, in His mercy Christ spreads a table before us, feeds us with His very body and blood, forgiving us and reminding us that we are His, His sisters and brothers, His co-heirs, and that all that is His will be ours on that glorious day. It’s how He strengthens us to go on waiting. It’s how He assures us that “the little while” really does have an end – a glorious end beyond all imagining. Indeed, “those who wait for the Lord SHALL renew their strength.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.