Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Who’s waiting for whom?

December 8, 2013

Advent, we’re told, is a season for waiting. We remember the prophetic voices who told the people to wait for their salvation, because God always keeps his promises. We remember the birth of the longawaited Savior with the admonition to wait now for his return in glory at the end of time. Prayer accompanies our waiting, helping to focus our attention on the action of God in our lives and in the world. Attention to the poor and the vulnerable prepares us to encounter again a baby who is both Son of God and Son of Mary. We wait for the Lord.

Pope Francis, speaking of his own life with the Lord, has told us of an experience he had when he was 17 years old. He entered the confessional and discovered that God was waiting for him. A sense of welcome and of God’s mercy, of being in the gaze of God, has helped him and now us see that the Lord waits for us even more faithfully than we wait for him. Advent then becomes a time when we resolve not to keep God waiting. He waits patiently for us even when we are sinners or just distracted from what is the most important encounter in our lives. He respects our freedom, but his love and mercy will take over our lives if we let him do so. The Lord waits for us.

Pope Francis has just published his first apostolic exhortation, a reflection on the work of the last Synod of Bishops, which discussed the new evangelization (see story on Page 32b). He took the occasion to set forth his convictions about a missionary church, one that goes out to the borders of human society and welcomes all those whom the world would like to forget, especially the poor. He entitled this document “The Joy of the Gospel,” and you can read it on the Vatican’s website,

Those who know they are constantly waited for by a loving and welcoming God live lives marked by joy. Joy is contagious. It is a sign of the presence of God, and those made joyful by his presence want to share their joy with everyone. That’s what it means to be a missionary: to share the gifts of Christ as universally as possible, until they are shared by everyone whom Christ came to save. Christ waits for us to take up this call to mission as his disciples.

This Advent it would be good not to keep God waiting. Taking the mission to heart, perhaps there is someone who is ready for the invitation to share in the joy of the Gospel. Start praying for that person, for openness of heart, and pray also for yourself, for courage to speak. Then your encounter with Christ at Christmas will be even more joyful, for you will have helped another person know what it means to be welcomed by the mercy of God.

Let me also take this column to thank all those who are welcoming this month the 50th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. The celebrations have developed into something more extensive than I had figured on, but if they help people to focus on the life and ministry of priests in the church, they will serve to strengthen the church’s mission. Because so many joyful disciples of the Lord are getting involved, the anniversary should be a moment when the joy of the Gospel becomes more visible. I am grateful.