“HOW LONG DO WE WAIT?” (Mt 9:27-37): 07 December 2007 (Memorial of St. Ambrose, Friday)
In the gospel story today, Jesus heals two blind men and they happily recover their sight. But what strikes me most about the reading is that the healing doesn’t happen immediately; it is performed only after Jesus enters a house and the two blind men finally catch up with him. Before that, we’re told that they follow him around for God knows how long, crying out to him, “Have pity on us!”
How long did they have to do that? I wonder. How long did they have to wait?
All I can say is: Been there, done that–haven’t we? There have been times in our lives when we needed God’s help, and we prayed and begged, hounding him all day and all night with our pleas. We had to wait.
Recently, I watched a film I didn’t want to watch. It’s called “A Mighty Heart” featuring Angelina Jolie. I was reluctant to watch it because I knew watching the film would break my heart. It’s the story of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, and eventually beheaded on video in 2002. It’s a movie about waiting. The film focuses on his pregnant wife, Mariane, as she waited and hoped against hope while the authorities tried to track the kidnapers and rescue Daniel. But one who knows the story watches the film like a Greek tragedy, his heart just waiting to sink because of the inevitable end hanging over his head.
The strange thing about watching the film is that I found myself waiting and hoping with Mariane Pearl even if I already knew even before watching the movie that she–and I–would merely wait and hope in vain. Daniel would never be found. He would eventually end up dead and beheaded anyway. But I waited and hoped still, like some desperate person who had no choice but to wait and hope. Like Mariane Pearl.
Yes, been there, done that. How many times have I felt similarly hopeless and desperate? All those times I have felt that I had no choice but to wait and hope.
And so today I ask the Lord: “How long do we wait and hope, Lord?” Given the law of entropy, the world seems headed for inevitable ruin. Yet we wait and hope and pray because we must. Perhaps one day you will turn around after we follow you crying for your pity. Perhaps one day you will heal our wound and ease our pain for good–and bring all our waiting to an end.
Or will we, like Mariane, simply end up waiting in vain? But we never really just wait in vain, do we? Doesn’t the waiting–even if in vain–bring some hidden grace? Mariane’s waiting must have somehow gathered for her the strength she needed to face Daniel’s death, as well as the courage to raise their child alone after his death. This Advent, let us pray that we learn to wait and hope, even if our pleas and prayers will not be answered in the exact way we expect or desire. Sometimes the answer to the prayer is given in our very waiting.