Back in the early 90’s—when I was beginning seminary studies in Italy—I distinctly recall my first oral/spoken exam. I had spent weeks preparing by arguing delicate points of Revelation with fellow students. We poured over our Italian notes…making sure to understand the particular nuances of terms that we weren’t familiar with in English, let alone Italian.
Anyway, I was in the waiting room, nervously preparing to approach the outer room of renowned Archbishop Rino Fisichella’s office. It was mid-afternoon—hotter and more humid than ever. I had eaten a good-sized breakfast and only a bit at lunch but I was feeling my nerves growing.
The archbishop’s message board flashed, “ENTRATA” and I knew I was next at the guillotine! I entered, introduced myself…he didn’t look at me or speak anything of welcome. I sat. He chose an index card and read his first question to me. He spoke quickly in his spiked Italian, then—thank God—his very broken English repeated the question with some mistakes in pronunciation, but I got it. He wanted me to defend the proposition that “revelation is credible or believable”…no problem: I had argued this one using his logic for weeks. But as I opened my mouth to start blurting out my brutish Italian, the only thing that came out was a bit of my breakfast on his office floor! He was shocked, and I was mortified! I tried and tried to gather myself, looking for paper towels or something to clean up my attempted response, but to no avail!
Then, softly, the archbishop rose and spoke gently to encourage me to enter into his inner office where his secretary would care for me as best he could…I wouldn’t fail, but he’d give me a chance to rest and recuperate…I would return later to answer his exam.
This second waiting room was a blessing: his secretary was very gentle and brought me an espresso and washcloth. He gave me a bit of a talk about the archbishop which actually calmed my nerves and made me laugh a bit. After about an hour, the Archbishop did not call me back into the exam room, but rather came to his private office and began a discussion with his secretary about my exam topic: I chimed in and argued a few delicate points to the best of my ability. After about twenty minutes, my professor stood and granted me a “9 out of 10”. He quipped that the mess in his outer office cost me that one perfect point!
We all have experienced waiting, haven’t we? We wait at traffic lights; we wait for teenagers to primp and preen in any mirror they pass; we wait for the homily to finally be over…and we wait! Some of our waiting is distressing, just like my initial waiting for a dreaded exam! Some waiting unnerves us, but then there is another kind of waiting that is a real blessing. As a mother awaits the birth of her precious child from her gentle womb; as a parent awaits a child’s first words or steps and then rejoices! As I waited with the archbishop’s secretary and shared laughs and camaraderie…and then a blessed discussion of theology with all of us. As an early broth turns into a wonderful feast to e shared with a waiting, hungry family. Yes, some waiting is blessed indeed.
From our first reading today, we find that the disciples are in the Upper Room again. They returned there after the crucifixion, and now they have returned there again after Christ’s ascension into heaven…and they are waiting for His promised Spirit to descend upon them. What are they doing as they wait? They are anticipating God’s glory shared with them in the Spirit; they pray and pray and sing and pray even more because they are anticipating being overjoyed…and then propelled outward to share such grand blessings with all the ends of the earth!
As today’s members of the Living Church of God, we too are awaiting Pentecost—next weekend—when we commemorate this blessed sending of the Spirit who enlightens and enlivens us. This waiting—just like the disciples in the Upper Room—is meant to stir within us a longing and a sure hope that God will fulfill in us His own promise: that we will always be His and He will make His dwelling within each of us.
And, of course, you and I are in another period of waiting at the present time. Our universal Church awaits the coming of our new Roman Missal—a blessed renewal of our liturgical worship and prayer at Mass. Yes, we are waiting, but not in stillness. We are in a time of preparation, where we will each be given numerous opportunities to grow in our understanding, and most importantly, our appreciation for these great and sacred mysteries. Please take advantage of these offerings that are exclusive to our parish: yes, we are one of just a small handful of parishes throughout our diocese who have made a conscious decision to offer a multitude of workshops and presentations—the next of which begins this Wednesday when Brendan Carr will make four different interactive presentations on the intention of the liturgy: that we all become one body, one spirit in Christ—united in our assembly, prayer, song and actions. I encourage each and every one of you to take advantage of these many offerings—they’re listed on our website, and there are information and registration forms in the vestibule behind you. Call or email the office to register, but don’t let our waiting be sleepy or un-intentioned: let us be like disciples who await and practice and prepare for the Spirit who will enliven us.
May this Spirit of God bless your waiting this week…and in the coming weeks. May we receive the Holy Spirit of Pentecost next weekend, and allow God’s holy gift of the Spirit to encourage us to be extraordinary disciples today and always!
God bless you, Fr. David