Looking to Mary's example during Advent
Patience is like a parking space at the mall on Black Friday -- it exists but it sure seems in short supply.
Instead, impatience has become the default. We don't like waiting for anything -- for traffic lights, for weight loss or even commercials that interrupt our favorite shows. Even Christmas trees now come already decorated.
This contemporary abhorrence of waiting stands in stark contrast to Mary. Her graceful patience is something to consider, especially as Catholics begin the prayerful preparation of Advent.
Mary reminds us that waiting is part of our Catholic faith. Sometimes God's plan isn't visible. Sometimes it's nothing like we imagined. Sometimes the only thing we know is that we don't know.
In that way, Mary is Advent.
She didn't know what was happening the day Gabriel, the angel, appeared to her. She was a frightened girl, barely a teenager and already betrothed to Joseph. Gabriel tells her something that on the surface sounds absurd.
She, a virgin, would have a baby by the Holy Spirit, and this child will grow up to be the son of God. No details of how it will happen. Just wait for it to happen, Gabriel said.
And she accepted. She didn't ask Gabriel to let her think about it, to return at another time or complain. She didn't ignore God's plan or wait to see if he'd forget it.
Instead, she said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:39).
Her waiting and patience extend far beyond those nine months of pregnancy. She endures more than any mother ever. Gabriel might not have told her, but Simeon gives her a glimpse of what the future would hold when she and Joseph present Jesus in the temple.
He says: "(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:35).
Mary watches Jesus grow from an infant to a boy, the kind who gets lost in the temple and can't understand why his parents worry. She watches him rise, nudging him along for his first miracle at Cana, then suffers the ultimate heartache. She stands at the cross watching her son die a terrible death.
And still she waits.
Her patient waiting provides a roadmap of faith for us. Steady, obedient, faithful, she simply follows the path God has drawn for her.
During Advent, we should all be so willing to wait and listen to what God is really saying to us. That means slowing down and savoring the moment rather than pushing to get to the next great thing.
It also means accepting suffering, if need be, because we don't know when it will turn to joy. It means appreciating the struggles because eventually they lead to successes. It's treasuring the unexpected.
Mary did just that, and look how it turned out for all of us.
Bothum is a freelance writer and mother of three.