“The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is near at hand!” (Mark 1:14)
The most famous play of the playwright Samuel Becket is called “Waiting for Godot”. When it was published and first performed in the early 1950s it caused something of a storm. By the 1970s when I studied it for A level, it had become something of a classic.
It has no story really. In two acts, the two principal characters wait by a tree for the arrival of Godot. We never really find out who Godot is, and he never turns up. The two characters are like tramps, or clowns, and they seem very weak or pathetic. Overall, it is not an uplifting play, and then, and since, people have argued about what it means and who Godot is. Is he meant to represent God? Possibly? Is the tree the tree of life? Of the knowledge of Good and Evil? Or of the Cross?
The play is really about waiting, and hope, and what it can do to people. The pair are foolish because their waiting is pointless, and never ending. It drags down their lives so they cannot do anything else other than wait. The waiting weighs them down in boredom. It is a fascinating play, but also quite depressing.
The play is far from being a Christian play, because it seems to mock hope and ends in absurdity. Yet on the other hand it does present a mirror image of Christian hope.
If hope makes us inactive, if it stultifies our lives, if it imprisons and constricts us, then it is no hope at all. We, the Advent people, are waiting. And we know the wait can be long - “to the Lord a day can mean a thousand years”. So what is the difference?
That is simple. For them, they wait for something they hardly know, but which will change their lives in some inexplicable way in the future. For them the present is tedious, but the future will be different. For Christians it is very different. We wait for someone we do know, who has already visited us, who shares his life with us in the sacraments and the saints. And the waiting, in faith and hope, inspires us and encourages us. The time of waiting, the Advent of this life frees us from hopelessness: it gives us meaning and purpose.
Isaiah’s messenger cries from the mountains, the voice of John cries in the wilderness, and the voice of Jesus in the cities of Galilee to proclaim what is Good News, a joyful message. As St Peter says in the second reading, our waiting for the coming of the Day of God inspires us to live holy and saintly lives, filled with joy.
The problem with the men in the play is for them hope is in something which will change their lives in some vague once upon a time future, whereas for us, hope is in something that is changing our lives now.