For me, one of the highlights for World youth Day celebration in Rio de Janeiro is the opportunity to see Pope Francis in person. So on the day Pope Francis was to arrive at Copacabana beach we were full of excitement and expectations of him. While waiting, we even joked about him coming via jet ski or by a wooden boat. That didn’t happen of course. Anyway, I tried to find my way into the crowd rubbing shoulders with thousands others who were all wishing to get close enough to the Pope when he passed by in his pope mobile. Like all others I had my camera ready to take a snap of Pope Francis when I had the chance. While waiting expectantly, we were also observing some signs of the Pope’s coming. So when we heard the siren of the police cars, the choppers buzzing around and the coastguards moving in closer to the beach, we knew that Pope Francis was on his way. So we started to press into the crowds again and rub shoulders with each others. But unlucky me, I didn’t have the chance to get any closer to him because as he got closer and closer to where we were, people started to outdo each other taking photos of the Pope or just wanting to see him in person or if lucky shake his hands even or just touch the ‘hem of his vestments’ so to speak. So I just backed off and offered a silent prayer hoping that this spirit of eagerness, excitement and expectant waiting of the Pope’s coming would be the same spirit that we have as we wait for the second coming of Jesus. But then I noticed another remarkable thing that made me stop and think again. There were some people there mingling with the crowd of pilgrims selling stuff such as water, refreshments, even chairs for the people to sit on while waiting, and some cardboard boxes hard enough to stand upon to get a better view of things happening around. That image just remained in me because it portrayed a direct contrast to the attitudes shown by most people there. While we pilgrims were trying to get a better position to see the Pope, with our cameras ready, hoping to get a good shot to show to our friends later on, these ambulant vendors were in a way serving the pilgrims by providing them with means as we were waiting. I am just amazed by the initiative of these people to blend into the crowd and thinking ahead what we might need or want as we wait.
I’m sharing this with you my dear brothers and sisters because this particular scenario presents a rich and various attitudes of people waiting for the arrival of someone. Some attitudes are focused more on the self and less concerned for others. Some attitudes present a heart and a mind for others. Some attitudes are just being indifferent to the situation. Those attitudes might just be acceptable in Copacabana beach, but some attitudes would need to be sorted out if we are waiting for the coming of the Lord.
Having the right attitude of waiting is one of the strong messages for us in the gospel today. Jesus in our gospel would urge us that we must wait actively, faithfully, and patiently and that we must be always ready when he comes. So he said: “See, that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit” (Lk 12:35). Yes, while waiting for the Pope, we were active, we were patient to one another and we didn’t care how long we have to wait because we knew that the Pope is certainly coming on that day, at that particular time and in the particular place. So after seeing we could say: ‘It’s worth the long wait.’ But waiting for the Lord’s coming is a challenge we have to take on. It needs patience and it calls for our fidelity because ‘we don’t know when he is coming, or where from, and where is he appearing. Jesus is only telling us to be always prepared at all times. He is calling us to imbibe in us the right attitude we need to develop as we wait in hope for his coming.
Reflecting on our readings today we can learn to develop three attitudes or three ways by which we can take to help us as we wait for the Lord and to help us prepare for the coming of Christ.
First is to have the attitude of a person of faith. This attitude presents itself in the person who always has God as the source, the power and the meaning for his/her existence. This attitude is evident in the person who allows God to be part of his/her daily work, maybe at home, at school, at workplaces, everywhere. But it is a call more than just being a person of faith. It calls us to keep upwith our faith. Faith is a very important element in our Christian life especially as we wait for the Lord’s coming. ‘Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for’, says the author of the letter to the Hebrews that we heard in our second reading today. It is faith, that ‘proves the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.’ (Heb 11:1-2). It is faith that gives meaning to our being a Christian. We may at times feel like losing faith or that our faith is fading, or becoming less relevant in our lives and in our world, but still let’s keep it up. Let us pray for an increase of our faith instead just as the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith (Lk 17:5). ‘Let us put on faith’, Pope Francis would say ‘as we put on salt in our food and our lives will take on a new flavour.’
Another attitude of expectant waiting for our Lord’s coming is the attitude of simple living and generous giving. First of all this entails a lifestyle check. Jesus said in the gospel: ‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it’ (Lk 12:33). This calls us to have a look at our lives. Are our possessions and concerns helping us to be in a right and personal relationship with God and with one another? If yes, let’s keep them. But if they are only focused for our selfish motives and ambitions, they need changing, they need sorting out, they need going beyond ourselves, they need going out of our comfort zones, they need replacing of a treasure worthy of heaven.
One other attitude to help us prepare for the second coming of Jesus is fidelity to the job we are given. When we are baptised and confirmed, we have been anointed by the oil of Chrism and that anointed us to be sharers in the three-fold ministry of Christ- i.e. Priestly, prophetic, and kingly.
As sharers of the priestly ministry of Christ we are to offer worship to God as part of our daily life. Prayer is one way to do this. As a sharer with the prophetic work of Christ, we are to proclaim the gospel, the Good News to all nations. It doesn’t necessarily mean going out to the ends of the earth and tell the people about Christ. By “all nations” means including our immediate surroundings, our families, our workplaces, our schools, our society. As a sharer with the kingly work of Christ, we are to be a service to one another. This means also serving the poor, the needy, the sick, the elderly, the lonely, the abandoned, the homeless and helping them recognize their inner dignity and worth once again as sons and daughters of God, as brothers and sisters of Christ.
So as we continue our celebration of the mass today, let us ask ourselves: ‘Are we having the right attitude as we wait for the coming of the Lord?’ Let us make this our prayer, let us ask the intercession of our Lady that like her we may offer ourselves and have the attitudes of selfless service to God.