One of the assumptions we commonly make is that human beings know how to do all the things human beings are called upon to do. We assume people know how to be married, how to be parents or friends. It is assumed we know how to love, be loved, forgive, be sick and die. But we only learn these things with time, practice, and the conviction that there is more to learn. In matters of faith, we assume that wisdom comes with age, that we know how to be disciples of Christ or how to be a Christian community.
But in our more reflective moments, we do know these things don’t happen automatically. They take energy, commitment and above all, they take time to develop and they take great patience.
In these summer months, as we read from the gospel of Matthew at our weekend Masses, we find Jesus teaching us to have the patience of the plants of the field, the mustard seed and yeast buried in the flour. This is the very patience Jesus urges us to have with one another.
How impatient we get with the driver with road rage, the neighbor’s boy who drops out of school, the acquaintance who should know better than to fool around with drugs. Yet, when someone in our own family suffers these same things, suddenly, our impatience dissipates and our judgment wanes. We name as illness that which we condemn in others. We learn the patience of Jesus when we ourselves or those closest to us begin to suffer from human weakness.
The other thing about patience, of course, is that patience can become the road to lethargy or inactivity, if we let it. We can be so patient that nothing important ever moves. Instead, Jesus calls us to be vigilant, attentively patient with a patience that discerns when to wait and when to act. Attentive patience and patient attention are twin ways in which we grow.
Nowhere in the Gospel does Jesus ever tell anyone to hurry. He invites his disciples and hearers to live fully, to be wholehearted and fruitful, but He never pushes anyone unduly, for like the leaven, the mustard seed, the plants growing in the field, He knows full well that fruitfulness and wholeheartedness take time. Life is full of God’s delays and not God’s denials.
Summer is a time for slowing down, a time to ask ourselves how patient we are with ourselves, with one another and whether or not we have a good attitude while waiting.
Do we expect perfection, flawless performance right now of my spouse, children, friends, employer or myself? Do I want the world’s problems to go away right now? Do I fail to recognize the small steps of human growth toward the coming Reign of God and bless God for them?
In these summer days, which call for relaxation, let us take heart from the Gospel and value the time we have to live and grow in Christ. It will not happen automatically, but we have the model of centuries of people who understood the gift of patience and treasured the growing time they had.
~ Sister Joan Sobala