REFLECTION: Holy Waiting


Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer for Holy Saturday | April 15, 2017

Today’s guest post is from Jessica Dennis, author and curator of Leaven in the World. She currently works part-time from home doing marketing and graphic design, has been married for 7 years to the most patient man in the world and is the proud mama of 2 insanity-inducing yet amazing girls. You can read more about her here.

To see the archive of all the homilies and reflections for each liturgical year since 2014, just click here: Salesian Sermons

PROTIP: This reflection focuses on the theme of Holy Saturday and is inspired by the writings of Richard Rohr and Ron Rolheiser on liminal space.

What do you do when everything you believe to be true, when the person or cause you’ve given everything up for — is suddenly lost? Is challenged in a fundamental way? What are you supposed to do?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples — who have left everything to follow Jesus, who have been with him non-stop for the past three years, are shaken to the core when they see their leader arrested after being betrayed by one of their own.

For most of the disciples, this scene at the garden is their last encounter with Jesus before they see him again in the upper room. After Jesus is buried in a tomb on Friday evening, the only detail we hear in Matthew’s Gospel is this: “Then [Joseph of Arimathea] rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.”

Beyond that, not much else is said in the Gospels about the space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. And yet here we are, gathered today to remember just that –the in-between time, the waiting period we’ve come to know as Holy Saturday.

I don’t know about any of you, but waiting has never been one of my strong suits. And the type of waiting, the in-between time that we remember today is not just your regular, run-of-the-mill waiting. It’s the type of waiting that occurs right after your world has been turned upside down, when your very being is shaken to the core, and you have no control over what’s going to happen next.

It’s what the Israelites experienced after being freed from the Egyptians, for those 40 years as they wandered the desert before they entered the Promised Land.

It’s what Mary experienced after she found out that the child that she was carrying would be the Son of God, for those 9 months before her eventful labor and delivery.

And it’s what the disciples experienced after Jesus’ execution as they huddled together in the upper room, as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sat there facing the tomb, during that first Holy Saturday.

What do you do when everything you believe to be true is suddenly uprooted and upended? Do you try to fix it? Do you try to move on as quickly as possible? Or do you do what the disciples did and simply wait, whether in the upper room or facing the tomb — willing to hold and sit with all the fear and anxiety and ambiguity that comes with not knowing what’s going to happen next?

When I’ve found myself in God’s waiting room, especially those times when I’m convinced I’ve already given my all, already done everything that’s been asked of me — those are the most agonizing.

And if I’m not careful, this holy and sacred waiting becomes frustrated and angry waiting, when it feels like it has no purpose or direction, when it feels like my efforts have been in vain, like God has abandoned me in this critical hour.

This holy and sacred waiting becomes impatient and arrogant waiting when I can’t let go of my need to be in control, of the thought that surely, I can fix this now. Why wait?

And even worse, this holy and sacred waiting becomes something I try to skip over altogether when I allow fear to overtake me — the fear that God’s silence really just means he wasn’t listening after all. Or that God is simply not there.

And yet, throughout Scripture, we are reminded that it is in our waiting — or translated differently, in our hoping — that we are transformed. The prophet Isaiah reminds us, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

My prayer this Holy Saturday is that each of us is able to recognize when God is calling us to wait for him in those sacred, liminal spaces — our own personal Holy Saturday’s — that we have the courage to wait, that we experience hope in the midst of the unknown. May we be like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who, even as the other disciples were still mourning and weeping (cf. Mk 16:10), waited with expectant hope in the face of the impossible.

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