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Breath of the Spirit: God’s timeline: We are prophets of a hope we may not experience

Waiting can be the worst! When one is young, waiting for Christmas can feel like an eternity. As people working, and waiting, for God’s Reign – the delay can give way to despair. But Advent, and today’s reflection, challenge us to hold out hope not only for a better world but for a better us, and not only for a future Reign of Love but that Love may reign in our hearts in this very moment.

Breath of the Spirit - Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

Romans 15:4-9

Matthew 3:1-12

God’s timeline: We are prophets of a hope we may not experience

A reflection by delfín bautista

Growing up, one of the central teachings, questions, and reflections for the Advent and holiday season was how we were preparing a place for Baby Jesus through our actions? In reflecting over the readings for this Sunday, childhood Advent memories kept coming to mind and heart. I wonder if my current musings would scandalize childhood delfín? One thing that didn’t occur to me then, but does now: Shouldn’t we give birth to God’s presence every day and not just during Advent? However, more on theological shocks to my younger self in a future reflection!

Perhaps our first reading inspired Francis of Assisi to claim and proclaim that we are called to preach the Gospel only using words when necessary. The prophet presents us with an immersive experience of God; it is not enough to say that others are equally blessed but it is something that must be experienced and manifested at the core of our DNA, in every breath, in our clothing, in our gestures, in each space we inhabit, and throughout all of creation. God’s justice is active, vibrant, and dynamic—it is a verb reflected in all aspects of our personhood.  

Our actions plant seeds; seeds that will be nurtured by others and that will one day grow. We may not get to see, enjoy, and experience the fruits of what we plant, much like how we continue to harvest the legacies started by our ancestors and transcestors. We embody the dreams of those who came before us and those who come after us will embody the dreams we scheme today. Both the psalmist and gospel writer reflect that God’s time is not our time. As Bishop Ken Untener writes in his prayer inspired by the witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero, “We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Trust in the divine process and timeline is easier to write than to believe, or hold onto in our daily lives. Being patient with God (who is always patient with us) is not an easy act of discipleship. As activists, much of our work focuses on the future, however, what about the right now? What transformative impact do our actions have both now and in ways yet to be experienced? Immediate gratification is both a blessing and challenge; it is a dynamic we cannot let ourselves be trapped by. How did the prophet, the psalmist, John the Baptist, Matthew, and others throughout history sustain hope for a future they may not fully experience? How do we embody hope for a possibility we may never know?  

To be honest, part of me feels shafted by my own reflection but it is a whole-izing reminder that we are called to hold onto the hope that things will not only change some day but ARE changing today in this moment. Advent is not just about preparing ourselves to give birth to God’s presence in the future but also in the right now of our lives. Something not mentioned directly in the readings but a truth that is hinted at throughout them is that, as church (however we understand the word), we are not alone; and for our ministries to be sustainable, we must be in a communion of solidarity with each other. John knew in his core that his cousin, Jesus, would pick up where he left off and minister in ways that could not yet be imagined; much like Jesus trusted that Mary Magdalene and the other Apostles would continue expanding and evolving the beloved community. We too pick up where others left off and others will pick up whenwe leave the scene; we pass the torch because we trust the process and have faith thatthe Spirit will make dreams and possibilities into realities in ways we cannot yet imagine or expect. Again, easier for me to write this then to believe it some days, but I try and we try to hold onto hope for a world that we may not yet experience because we know it is, and will be, for real for real in that fullness of time which is both now and to come, and which we mark especially during Advent.

 

mx. delfin w. bautista, MSW, MDiv. (they/elle/delfin) is a native of Miami, FL, is of Cuban and Salvadoran heritage, and currently serves as the Director for the Lionel Cantu Queer Resource Center at UC-Santa Cruz. A social worker and activist theologian, delfin is passionate about intersectional justice and resilience, especially around the experiences of queer people of color. delfin serves on the board of directors for both Soulforce and enfleshed.

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