Waiting for and receiving God's mercy Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Written by By Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

Just as I did at Mass this past Sunday, I’d like to reflect for a moment on waiting.

I think our most frequent use of that word is when we say something like, “I can’t wait!” or “I just can’t wait!” Such phrases are usually joyful statements of anticipation of something good to come.

Advent is built around waiting

Advent is a season built around waiting, and we should certainly be waiting in joyful anticipation and in hope.

However, in practice, when it actually comes to waiting, oftentimes our experience is not so pleasant.

Waiting, in a way, is a call to humility. Usually we don’t choose to wait. We are forced to wait. And we have to sit there, like everyone else, and kill time, as they say, and wait.

Of course cell phones and the internet have made it much easier to kill time. As a matter of fact, people use those things to kill time when they should be doing other things with time rather than killing it.

But, there is something to be said for waiting, because it is our lot in this “valley of tears” as we wait for God’s Kingdom to come at the end of history.

Awaiting Christmas

Even as we wait for the joyful celebration of Christmas, we see very clearly the reality that God’s Kingdom in its fullness is not in the here and now.

The violence, the war, and hatred, the suffering of this life does not fail to touch any of us. And so we cry out, “Oh Lord, Come! Come, Lord Jesus!”

But what is our waiting all about? John the Baptist said it very clearly and we heard about it in the Gospel of this past Sunday, “Repent, and be forgiven! Be converted, and receive mercy!”

What does that have to do with waiting?

Well, it was one of the main themes of Pope Francis in his talk this past Sunday at the Angelus.

He talked about how conversion and repentance take time. And it’s not that God wants to make us wait just for the fun of watching us kill time.

It takes time for us to have a conversion of heart and repentance, but the delay is not on the part of God, but on our own.

We have to wait for our own response to God’s mercy to be what it truly should be.

Waiting for God’s mercy

The truth of the matter is we can only be converted, we can only repent when God’s mercy really takes hold of us and we start to change our lives.

Receiving mercy is not like getting an ice cream cone (or perhaps I should say custard here in the land of Culver’s). God’s mercy is offered without reserve, but we must strive to overcome our selfishness so that we might receive it in the way it is intended. That requires us to change, to be converted, to repent, and we all know that change takes patient work.

We have to wait and be patient with ourselves as repentance and conversion take hold of us.

Mercy is not like a present under the Christmas tree -- it’s there, we get it, and that’s that. Because what happens? It’s there, we get it, and before you know it -- if we’re little kids we get bored with it, and if we are adults we take it for granted.

We must learn to wait and to receive the gift of God’s mercy with ever greater gratitude.

Year of Mercy

We can never get bored in the receipt of God’s mercy. We can never take God’s granting of mercy for granted. That’s why it’s a genius idea to have a whole Year of Mercy!

It begins universally on this Tuesday, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation, and goes until the Feast of Christ the King in 2016.

A whole year to tell us that mercy takes hold of us insofar as we repent. It takes time, we have to wait -- just like we have to wait for the fullness of God’s Kingdom to come as we struggle through our daily existence with its joys and its sorrows in this world.

The Year of Mercy has everything to do with waiting.

Because our conversion will only happen and we will only repent insofar as we are patient with ourselves. The work is the Lord’s but it requires our faithful collaboration. It requires our humble acknowledgment that He is in charge.

So let us, during this holy season of Advent, take advantage of every occasion when we have to wait. And while we wait, instead of getting bored and rushing to our phones and to the internet, let us decide that this waiting is “practice” as we wait for the Kingdom!

Let it be “practice” as we take time to be truly repentant so that we can truly receive mercy.

Waiting is the key to mercy. And receiving mercy is the key to giving mercy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

May the Lord continue to be at work in all of our hearts this Advent, as we wait for the Lord!

Praised be Jesus Christ!