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WAITING WITH A MISSION
St. John the Baptist is known as the “precursor,” the transition figure between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He uses Old Testament language to describe his mission of announcing the advent of the promised Messiah, calling himself “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23). He was the first prophet to appear in Israel for hundreds of years, and his message was simple: repent and get ready, because the promised Savior is coming. He led an austere life that gave his message a certain moral weight and helped capture the imagination of his contemporaries. As the Bible explains it: At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. Matthew 3:5–6
St. John the Baptist was anticipating the arrival of the Messiah by fulfilling his own mission in the history of salvation. That’s the first lesson for us about the art of waiting. Just as St. John the Baptist anticipated the first coming of Jesus, we are anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We know and believe, as we publicly profess every Sunday when we pray the Creed, that at the end of history (which could happen any day) Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end.” And in the meantime, just like St. John the Baptist, we have a mission to fulfill, the mission of spreading to those around us, through our words and deeds, the message of the Gospel. We are not called to simply sit around and wait for Jesus to come again and put an end once and for all to evil and sin. We are called to actively spread his goodness and his light; that’s part of how we anticipate his Second Coming; it’s part of the Christian art of waiting.