We spend our lives waiting for things big and little. We wait for our first day of school, for our first two-wheeled bike, for our first date, for our first job, for our driver’s license, for our life’s partner, for our first child, for grandchildren and for retirement.
The danger, of course, is that we spend our lives so anxious about tomorrow that we lose all appreciation for today. The ungrudging goodness of God is something to be experienced every day of our lives – not merely in some far-off tomorrow when our ship finally comes in, as they say.
But young or old, it is true that we are waiting. The psalmist said: “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning” (Psalm 130:6).
To wait for the Lord is another name for faith. St. Paul said that the whole creation waits in eager expectation, standing on tiptoes like a little boy waiting for the first unit of the parade to come down the street. Noah in his ark, Abraham in his tent, Israel in Egypt, Job in his pain, Simeon in the temple, the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in today’s text from St. John’s Gospel – they were all waiting.
Maybe you remember that old story about a cobbler (a shoe repairman) who was told that the Lord would come to visit him one day. All day long he waited – and all day long he was interrupted by all kinds of people to whom he showed kindness. Disappointed at day’s end that the Lord had not come, he was told that the Lord was the One he had been serving all along: “Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did it for Me” (Matthew 25:40).
For long centuries God’s Old Testament people waited for the Savior to come. Finally, amid the dark and wrinkled hills of Bethlehem one night, He came. Sitting behind locked doors and filled with fear, the slow-to-believe apostles waited to see what would happen after the crucifixion. On that bright Sunday morning, the Savior came to them, gloriously alive! He has promised you and me that He will come again to take us to be forever with Him.
Now we wait, and say as the dying patriarch, Jacob, once said: “I have waited for Your salvation, O Lord!” (Genesis 49:18).