By Justinus, sx
The title above could seem somewhat provocative if we understand mission (and missionaries) as something “active.” Could the waiting-Advent-experience then become an obstacle for those with full of enthusiasm and fire to preach the Good News? In truth, waiting is a “strange” word for missionaries. Our experiences in daily life as well show that waiting is a moment that often may make us lose our nerve and get into “trouble.” For instance, if we are going through heavy traffic, we tend to get easily angry and even label a police as irresponsible. Often, waiting makes us feel frustrated: we don’t want to wait because it looks like we are wasting our time.
Personally I have been finding that waiting is one of the most difficult experiences in my life. Many people advised me to be patient in facing the difficulties such as living in a new country, learning a new language or adjusting to a new situation and people. They have told me to live these waiting moments as part of a longer journey. I can say that to really go through this experience is not so easy because I have been entrapped into fearful corners where I can see and feel my weaknesses.
Nevertheless, I am impressed by the many characters that, in the Gospel of Luke, are waiting! Zechariah and Elizabeth are waiting. Mary is waiting. Simeon and Anna are waiting in the Temple when Jesus was brought to the priest. It’s interesting to see that they are waiting for something good to happen: “Don’t be afraid. I have something good to say to you.”
We also know that there were some people, as remnant of the Israelite nation, who are waiting for a Messiah. In other words, all of them are waiting in the light of a promise. “Zechariah, your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son.” “Mary, listen! You are to conceive and bear a son.” This promise is a guarantee for what they are waiting for. They wait for something that had already started to grow in their life. This is very important for us because we too can wait only if what we are waiting for has already begun in us. “Waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.”
Reflecting on the life of Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, we can see that their waiting is active. They really present at the right moment. Their active waiting enable them to hear the voice of God. That is why they can listen to the angel’s voice, “Don’t be afraid.” We can also add that they are waiting in patience. By faith and hope, they know that the promises they have heard are going to happen. Only people who have patience can see the future in hope.
Waiting is an essential part of our spirituality as Xaverian Missionaries too. We can look at the life of our Founder, Guido Maria Conforti. His life is full of waiting moments. Sometimes what he was waiting for became “useless”. He was waiting for the answer of the Jesuits regarding his willingness to enter their congregation. He was waiting that Salesian Congregation as well would accept him. He was waiting to be ordained as a priest. But, what made our founder’s waiting so special was he was waiting for something, a seed that had started to grow. His encountering with the crucified Jesus was “the” seed planted in his heart; a seed that would enable him to say, “I look at him and he look at me and he seem said many things to me.” Conforti’s waiting was definitely in a light of promise and hope. This promise was fulfilled when he became the good shepherd for two flocks.
We missionaries are people on the way, waiting and walking with people wherever we are called to be. One of the most beautiful passages of Scripture begins, “Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went to Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.” The visit of Mary enable Elizabeth to realize what she is waiting for. The child leapt for joy in her. And then Elizabeth said to Mary: “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” And Mary responded, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” By being together these two women created space for each other to wait. Here we can see a model for us how to live our mission. We are sent to live with the people to affirm what they are waiting for. We live with them so that we can enable each other to become aware about what we are waiting for.
The question is, are we at home when He rings our doorbell? Are we ready to open our gate and let him enter into our heart, into our community? In other words, He who will come is also waiting for us. “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Rev.20). MARANATHA!