One of the highlights of our bishops’ meetings comes at our morning of recollection.
It’s rather simple, but we, your bishops, observe that is probably the most effective part of our sessions.
We gather before the Most Blessed Sacrament, in adoration before the Holy Eucharist, exposed in the monstrance. There we pray together morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, listen to a reflection on God’s Holy Word by one of our brother bishops, and then sit or kneel for most of an hour in silent prayer until the time concludes with Benediction. (During the entire time, 10 or 12 priests are available for the Sacrament of Penance.)
Two weeks ago, as the hundreds of bishops were in front of Jesus in the Eucharist in silent worship, I quietly got up to go to confession. As I passed one of the helpful hotel attendants, who had been with us all week to make sure that the sound and light were fine, and who I had gotten to know, he whispered to me, “Cardinal Dolan, what are all of you bishops waiting for?”
“What do you mean, Alex?” I asked.
“Well, you’re just all sitting there quiet, waiting...none of you are talking or doing anything. Is something wrong?”
I smiled and tried to explain to him that, actually, we were doing something, praying, but that this was best done quietly, with all the “action” inside of us, in the heart and soul, invisible to all but the Lord.
“And yes, Alex, we are waiting for Someone: we wait for Jesus to answer our prayers.”
What Alex observed about us bishops in prayer he could also claim about the next four weeks, because Sunday we begin Advent.
Advent, of course, is our spiritual “getting ready” for Christmas. We try to squash into four weeks all the hoping, longing, preparing...all the waiting of the People of Israel, our older family members in the household of the faith.
As we bishops were doing in front of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we now, in Advent, wait for Jesus:
...We wait for His grace and mercy, sure to come;
...We wait for Him to answer our prayers, sure He will, but unsure when, where, or how;
...We wait for reasons to explain suffering, struggle, and worries;
...We wait for Him to call us to be with Him for all eternity.
And, lest we forget, the Lord waits for us!
...Jesus waits for us to open up to His grace and mercy;
...Jesus waits for us to admit that, as a matter of fact, we do need a Savior!
...Jesus waits for us to admit that He is the answer to the questions our lives of searching pose.
...Jesus waits for our ultimate return to Him, for He “has gone to prepare a place for us.”
My friend Alex couldn’t figure it out. He had watched us bishops rushing around all week, busy with meetings, committees, projects, and talking. And then He sees us quiet, not a sound, not a hand raised to ask a question, no speakers, no reports. Something must be wrong, he worried. So he asks, “What are you waiting for?”
Really, Alex, it’s who we’re waiting for...and He will come! In the waiting is the very arrival...
And deep down inside, cradled in the soul, where no one but the One who counts can detect, is again an empty manger where the Son of God wants to be re-born. Christmas can do that.
“Come, Lord Jesus!”
A blessed Advent!