OUR CALLS ARE IMPORTANT

Author: Fr. Mike Byron
December 02, 2018

“Your call is very important to us; please stay on the line and you will be helped by our first available representative.”

Is there any more irritating sentence in the world to hear than that one?  It’s a pre-recorded robo-voice that you only encounter when something is wrong/needed and you’re at the mercy of whatever stranger is at the other end of the call, whenever he or she may decide to notice you…maybe in 5 minutes, maybe in 45.

It’s the first part of the message that is the most galling: “Your call is important to us.”  No it’s not.  When you or I have calls that are truly important, we stop whatever it is that we are otherwise doing—even if it means being rude or inconvenienced—and we take that call now.  Sometimes the situation demands exactly that.  For the robo-voice at customer service our call is not important.  It is a necessary accommodation as part of doing business.  How can a recording tell me that my issue is important before knowing anything about me or the reason for my call?  It is more insulting than reassuring, because it is so demonstrably false.

Do you ever get to feeling that way about God?  You know, the God of Advent.  The one who is forever promising that our calls to Him are important, that He hears us and will answer our cries—just not now, and perhaps not for a long time, maybe not in this life.  Does it sometimes seem as though Advent waiting in faith is a bit like listening to Handel’s Water Music on the phone through an endless period of nothing happening at all?  Does it ever make you wonder whether God is honest in assuring us that He really cares?  And isn’t all this waiting and expecting that we are so nobly asked to do during this season also a kind of indictment of a Lord who can seem very silent?  Just how important is our call to Him?

Today the Prophet Jeremiah assures us:

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.  In those days, in that time I will raise up for David a just shoot…”

Well why not in these days and in this time?  Why the need for all this waiting?

Perhaps it’s because of our need to re-understand the meaning of what it is to wait.  Perhaps waiting and yearning and expecting aren’t the completely passive things that we can often imagine them to be.  Maybe these are not times of simply standing still until time and events change for the better or someone answers the phone.  Maybe waiting time is profoundly transformative.  Or at least it can be.  That’s really up to us and how we engage the wait.

The bible is filled with stories and events that regard delay and waiting as sacred time.  If the purpose of the Exodus had been merely to relocate a bunch of Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land that could have been accomplished in a few weeks.  Instead it took 40 years in the desert because something profound was taking place in the hearts of all those people as they learned who God truly is.  

And when Jesus chose apostles to share in the work of his ministry he didn’t hit the road immediately for Jerusalem and Calvary.  Instead he spent months and years with them first, forging relationships, opening their hearts, creating space for them to grow in love and understanding.  

What can seem to be merely waiting and delay is a time of new life, no less than it is for human pregnancy.  The most important things take time.

For people of biblical faith the wait is already part of God’s response to our call.  It is we who are invited to use this time of waiting as a rich season of preparation.

When Jeremiah the Prophet made known God’s promise of a coming savior from the house of David it was more than 500 years before Jesus actually was born.  It wasn’t that God couldn’t have picked up the pace of history a bit.  It was rather that the apparent delay was already preparing the community for the gift.  

And so it is for us still.  In today’s gospel of Luke Jesus is addressing the question of when and how the world will end.  It’s a question that still captivates people today.  And it’s a question that Jesus only partially and vaguely responds to.  Instead he poses a different question to us.  Rather than being concerned with God’s time table for cosmic history, why don’t we consider the matter of how we are making use of the time that is now ours.  We are warned not to become drowsy, nor to lose sight of the fact that the day of the Lord is in fact coming.  We are to be vigilant about the conduct of our lives and in our devotion to prayer.  Waiting is, for us, not a matter of standing idly by.  It is a necessary part of our transformation into glory.  It’s already under way.  

Our call is very important to God, and He is responding right now.


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