by Father Mark Goldasich
Remember the song, “Anticipation”? To this day, whenever I hear it, the first thing I think of is . . . Heinz ketchup.
Sorry, Carly Simon, I just can’t help myself.
Honestly, though, that song is the perfect way to describe the delicious wait associated with ketchup in a bottle. You uncap it, turn it over and . . . nothing happens for the longest time. Despite Heinz’s claim that it’s “worth the wait,” it’s the rare person who has the patience to just hold the bottle until that tomato paste decides to slip down on its own.
We’re an impatient people. Going back to the ketchup, there are those who beat on the bottom of the bottle to hurry it along, those who cram a knife into the bottle’s neck, and those who employ a persistent up-and-down violent shaking ritual to dislodge its contents. And the results of our impatience, at least most of the time, are disastrous: an entire plate of food totally covered in red glop or a shirt or skirt embarrassingly stained.
In the old days, ketchup was a perfect image for Advent, the season of waiting and anticipation. I say “in the old days” because we’ve grown tired of waiting for our ketchup. Now, it comes in squeeze bottles to speed things up. If we can’t even wait for our ketchup, is it any wonder that we have a terrible time celebrating Advent? We’ve forgotten how to wait, how to be patient, how to anticipate. We’ve forgotten that rushing this season, like trying to rush ketchup, results in a big mess.
I’m planning to make my Advent different this year. Right next to my Advent wreath, I’m going to put down a bottle of ketchup — the old-fashioned kind. Along with these two visual symbols, I’m adopting a three-word Advent mantra: Wait a minute! My emphasis will be on patient waiting, something that I don’t do well, particularly in this time of seemingly endless lines — long, endless lines.
Since there is really no way to avoid them, I’m going to work on not grumbling under my breath or rolling my eyes . . . quite as often. Instead, I hope to use this prayer for patience — which has been e-mailed to me several times now, for some odd reason — as a focus for my thoughts and heart during Advent:
“Heavenly Father, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry, and spend a few precious moments with her children.
“Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.
“Remind us, Lord, that the scary-looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!), is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
“Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slowly through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress is savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they will go shopping together.
“Heavenly Father, remind us each day that of all the gifts you give us, the greatest is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not just to those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love. Amen.”