This week, in the second reading from the Letter of Saint James, we are told to be “patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”
“Being patient” is something we all have experienced. Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just “waiting” until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of Santa for a young child at this time of year, the end of the snowstorm, the return of a friend, the last of the treatments for cancer, the resolution of a conflict. Henri Nouwen phrased the concept clearly when he wrote, “Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”
It is not easy to be patient or to accept it. It is a virtue – actually one I remember receiving when I was confirmed – one of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit”. I have benefited from this “gift” of patience over the years as a mother and as a teacher. Someone once said, “You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” The football coach Lou Holtz said, “Patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s a necessity.” We all need to practice being patient throughout our ordinary daily living and in times of stress. Being patient requires “time”. In modern society we are constantly reminded of “instant gratification” which can lead to “impatience”. There is a Chinese proverb that states, “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” This statement is thought provoking and makes me realize that life is precious; there’s no rewind or fast forward…. just patience and faith.
Joyce Meyer wrote, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. A trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. When you learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient.”
Sometimes “being patient” is very difficult. Our pains, losses and disappointments can test our belief, our trust, and our patience. It’s okay to get angry with God. He can take it. However good or bad a situation is, it will change, so we must try to ” strengthen our hearts”. Bruce Lee, actor/martial arts professional, said: “Patience is not passive. On the contrary, it is concentrated strength.” Let us ask for the strength to be patient and, as James in the reading said, “Be patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”