Patience, Another Word for Love
by Rev. James C. Hudgins
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down."
Then they asked him, "Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen"? He answered, "See that you not be deceived, for many will come in may name, saying, "I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified, for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
"Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives."
Wouldn't it be great if it were possible to learn to play an instrument, or to acquire fluency in a foreign language, just by taking one single lesson? Imagine if it were possible to drop 10 pounds by skipping just one desert, or become physically fit by doing just a few jumping jacks. Wouldn't it be great if we could have the character of a saint just by being virtuous for one single day?
We cannot, of course. The indispensable price of achieving anything worth having is the virtue of perseverance. Perseverance is that virtue by which we hold fast to a good purpose, keeping the goal steadily in view, despite delays, fatigue, or temptations to indifference. It is a virtue specifically counseled by Christ, and spiritually speaking, is one of the most difficult to practice.
In the very last line of the Gospel this week, after Jesus warns his apostles about the many hardships they must expect for being his disciples, he tells the, "By your perseverance, you will secure your lives" (Luke 21:19). The literal translation of the original Greek text of St. Luke says, "By your patient endurance, you will acquire your soul." Perseverance is rightly understood as the virtue of "patient endurance," and there are three areas of life in which we need to exercise it - with others, with ourselves and with God.
First, we must strive to be patient with others. Father Mike Schmitz of Ascension Press once said in a reflection that we tend to treat other people the same way we treat our cars. When something is wrong with our car, we try to fix it. If we can't fix it, we replace it. If we can't replace it, we simply ignore it. That might work well with cars, but not with other people. In our relationships, patient endurance of the character flaws of others is an essential part of life. It might help to think that others do not have "character flaws," but rather "delightful idiosyncrasies." It may help to remember that other people patiently endure our "delightful idiosyncrasies" as well.
Secondly, we must strive to be patient with ourselves. If we're at all thoughtful, it doesn't take us long to discover that we lack the power to overcome our sins and faults by sheer force of will. We lack the ability to lift ourselves up to sanctity by our own bootstraps. Growth in virtue takes humility, surrender to divine grace, and time. St. Francis de Sales once said that the surest cure for our faults is the slowest cure, and that those very sins that gallop into our lives on horseback always leave on foot. We must put forth all the effort we have, of course, but without losing heart. As St. Pio of Pietrelcina once put, "Hate your faults, but hate them calmly."
Lastly, we need to be patient with God. Have you ever read the headlines of the news and wondered why God doesn't simply fix everything wrong with the world at this very moment? If you ever doubt God's power, wisdom or strength, take a few minutes to meditate on the terrible events of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. When Jesus was handed over to his enemies, as he carried his cross and died, as the was placed in a stone-cold tomb, it must have seemed to his followers that all hope was lost. Yet at every moment, God's power was unmatched, his will was sovereign and his providence was perfect, despite every appearance to the contrary. In our own times of darkness, the sufferings of Christ teach us everything we need to know. Impatience with God is actually a sin against faith.
Perseverance certainly is not the greatest of all virtues, but it makes possible the acquisition of every other good. St. Paul once told the Corinthians that patience is another word for love. That alone is why we must strive to live it.
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