With Franciscan Eyes

An Advent Prayer When Waiting Takes Too Long

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Gracious God, there's so much waiting in my life. I wait in lines. I wait for a better job. I wait for others. I wait for financial security. I wait for a doctor's report. I wait for love. I wait for pain to abate, and I even wait for death. Sometimes the waiting erodes my joy and fills me with dread. Help me find waiting to be the friend that invites me into the spaciousness of stillness. Give me the grace to refrain from rushing ahead in order to bring waiting to an end. Instead, let me find joy in the waiting itself. I ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.

Immaculate Conception, Redemption and Patience

I had been wondering what I wanted to write about for several days, but nothing had come to mind. I chose to write an article during Advent because it’s my favorite liturgical season (not just because of the purple), but I wasn’t getting inspired. So, I decided to look at the readings for Wednesday when this would be sent out. Not until I clicked on the USCCB daily readings did I recall that yes, it’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Thanks, Holy Spirit! I have more devotion for this feast after I wrote a paper on Franciscan Friar John Duns Scotus and discovered it was his explanation of how Mary, a human like the rest of us who needed redemption, could be conceived without sin that led to the Immaculate Conception becoming a dogma. I had not known about the vigorous theological debate regarding the concept that had spanned centuries. I’d seen enough Miraculous Medals in my life that I’d not given it a thought. However, in the Roman Rite, Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma in 1854. 1854! In the history of the Church, that is like yesterday. Scotus mapped out his subtle yet brilliant explanation before his death in 1308. It took centuries before the Church officially recognized his work on this idea.

Why did it take centuries of debate on something that seems so obvious? Mary was unique among all humanity. She agreed to birth Jesus, the Incarnation. Why wouldn’t she be special enough to be conceived without sin? The Church in her collective wisdom most often moves slowly and deliberately. One of the two theological questions was: If Mary were conceived without sin, why would she need a Savior? The second was: When during her conception was her sin removed? These two questions needed satisfactory answers. Scotus showed that Mary did need a Savior, a Savior who preserved her from sin entirely. For who is the better doctor, the one who cures the patient or the one who prevents the patient from becoming sick? Scotus then removed the troublesome obstacle of time and stated that her conception and preservation from sin happened simultaneously. God is beyond time.

What can we learn from this? It may take years for something we have started to come to fruition. We may not live to see it. However, knowing that should not stop us from planting seeds of hope. So much about life is waiting. Waiting is hard. Waiting for the Church to recognize Scotus’ theological genius did not lessen its importance. In fact, it enhanced it. A long-awaited victory is a sweet one. The Israelites waited for millennia for the Messiah. Advent reminds us to wait for the Second Coming but also to pay attention to the now. I wish you all peace, hope and patience in the waiting.