Third Sunday of Advent
December 11, 2016 – Year A
Readings: Is 35:1-6A, 10 / Ps 146 / Jas 5:7-10 / Mt 11:2-11
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
One of the priests in the diocese of Columbus, Ohio, by the name of Father Joshua Wagner, once told a story that as a young boy he really wanted a Transformer action figure for Christmas. His parents had a rule that the children couldn’t get out of bed until 5:00 a.m. to wake them up and open gifts on Christmas morning. But at that time he couldn’t stand it, so at 4:00 a.m., he snuck down to have a look at the Christmas tree surrounded with presents.
He noticed that one of those beautifully wrapped gifts was marked “To: Joshua.” Against his better judgment, he peeled back a little bit of the wrapping paper and saw that he had received the Transformer toy that he had hoped for. Now filled with joy, he put the wrapping paper back together and snuck back upstairs. About an hour later, he woke up his parents and headed downstairs. To their surprise, they found a note from Santa that explained that, because Joshua had peeked at his toy, Santa had taken back all the presents. Father Wagner said he hasn’t cried that hard many times in his life. It turned out that it was all a prank by his brother Mark who had seen him peeking. Needless to say, all the presents eventually came back out.
We all know that waiting is very much a part of life. We wait in supermarkets, restaurants, doctor’s offices, hospitals, when we go fishing (most especially when we go fishing), or for the coming visits of our loved ones. Every single day, we all wait in one way or another. If we wait impatiently, we are just punishing ourselves unnecessarily. But if we wait joyfully, studies have shown that we will have peace of mind, joyful living and even a healthy Christian life.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, psychologist Walter Mischel, who was then a professor at Stanford University, conducted the so-called “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment,” a series of studies on delayed gratification. In these studies a child was offered a choice between one small reward, provided immediately, or a larger, later reward if they waited for a short period – approximately 15 minutes – during which the tester left the room. The reward was sometimes a marshmallow or often a cookie or a pretzel. In follow up studies, the researchers found that children who could wait longer for the bigger reward, tended to have better life outcomes as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index, and other life measures.
The result of this experiment tells us the many benefits of patient waiting and delayed gratification. But as God’s children, we don’t cultivate in ourselves the virtue of patience in order to attain success and material rewards; what is at stake is our life eternal. That is why in today’s second reading, the apostle James said “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains. You too must be patient.”