how to practice patience
2nd Sunday of Lent – Year C
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: March 17, 2019
Patience, patience, patience
Normally I never tell people about what I am doing at Lent – I try to follow what we heard in the readings on Ash Wednesday – “do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”
But I thought I would share with you this year my Lenten challenge – not because it is something I am proud of, or want anyone to compare with, but instead to humbly tell you that I struggle as well as you. And also that this might be an area in your life that you might also battle with and are looking for God’s guidance.
So two weeks ago, Pope Francis challenged people this Lent, to give up gossip if that is a struggle for you. Based on that, I thought, well, gossip isn’t my main challenge…my largest challenge is patience. I’ve always been fairly driven and working at a steel plant that has losses of $60,000 for every hour of production lost didn’t help to lessen that tendency!
So, instead of any other Lenten sacrifice, this year I would try and become more patient – with my family, people around me, strangers – wherever and whenever.
I asked God to use these 40 days to teach me about patience and how to be more patient – and it is funny how God works – when it is something God wants us to improve, He seems to respond very quickly!
His first way to teaching me (and us) is through St. Catherine of Siena’s book – A Dialogue with God, which I have been reading in preparation for our parish trip to Siena in May. In the book, there are four major areas of sin identified that block us from God – Self-love, pride, indiscretion and finally impatience.
St. Catherine learned from God and passes on to us, that impatience is a form of selfishness. We are not happy that we don’t get what we want, when we want it, and how we like it. We get agitated, upset, antsy, because our needs are not being fulfilled.
This is truly not God centered and something that needs to be worked on.
The second way God is helping me and us is in today’s readings. It’s funny that this was my weekend to preach and in the readings we have many examples of patience that jump out at us and teach us.
In the gospel, we see after the transfiguration of Christ, God speaks from the cloud to Peter, James and John and says “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
In order to listen to Christ, we have to follow Jesus’ example when he goes to the mountain to pray – this means to stop, make time, and make it a priority to be able to hear God speaking to us in prayer and/or scripture; embrace it, and then put it into action in our lives.
In the first reading, we see Abram, asking God when He will give him and his wife children, and God says to be patient – the descendants will be so numerous – “Look to the heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them…so shall your descendants be”. He tells Abram that it is not yet time and the land will be given to his descendants 400 years in the future – a long time to wait – but we hear “and he believed the Lord, and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”.
Abram was patient, because of his trust and faith in God!
In the psalm we have sung – psalm 27 – “the Lord is my light and my salvation” – the psalm is from a speaker in distress, but their heart we can see has trust in God as their light.
God promises in the psalm that He will not hide his face from his servant, he will be there in the time of need – but watch carefully – the last verse of the psalm – “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord”
In other words, God may not act immediately; his timing takes into account many other factors – we are to be patient and wait for Him to act in the His time and not ours!
In the second reading we have St. Paul reminding the Philippians and us of course, that the challenge to live the Christian life is not always easy and “to stand firm in the Lord” – to stand firm in following Christ’s example and not to be buffered by the winds and waves of the storms of life that can pull us away from God’s love and security.
To stand firm patiently, waiting as God acts in our lives. It makes sense as we know what of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is patience, if we allow the Holy Spirit to drive our actions instead of our own emotions.
Mother Teresa – “Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.”
The goal of the Christian life as we know is to run the race to become Christ like and fully mature as Christians. We are called to know Christ, to imitate him, to follow his example with humility and love for others. We are called to live as God’s hands and feet in the world – including how we interact with others such as being patient – “the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
We are called to imitate Him and be a reflection of His love in the world. It is during this time of Lent that we take this time out in order to make this journey.
So if patience is a challenge for you as it is for me – what are things we can think about this Lent and going forward in order to improve in this area of our Catholic Christian lives:
Here are 3 examples:
- If the line is very slow at the checkout, and we are getting antsy, maybe we can see it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with some one else in the line who may need an ear; or maybe we can smile at the person who may be struggling to go fast and let them know we understand and it is okay, maybe they have digital challenges or just need a little more time
- If we are struck in traffic, knowing we might be late; perhaps we can recognize this as an opportunity to relax or pray; and also remind ourselves that maybe this delay will prevent us from getting in an accident; or maybe give us the time we need to think about how to approach a person or situation at work?
- If someone is taking forever to get to the point in a conversation, and we are feeling impatience rise up – maybe retell ourselves that there could be key details in what they say that may help us; or maybe this is one of the only conversations they will have this day and our listening will show God’s love for them
So this week, as the world rushes along and we are caught up in it – recognize the impatient moments as they happen and just say to yourself (as God whispering in your ear) – patience, patience, patience.