As my deadline to submit this article approaches, the official results of the presidential election have not yet been finalized. For forty-eight hours I have felt impatient with a desire for things to unravel to their end whatever that may be, and a quick scroll through social media shows that I am not alone. Patience is a virtue difficult to exercise, especially in modernity when we have grown used to immediate responses and results. The word patience comes from the Latin word patientia which means suffering. Patients waiting in a waiting room are not called patients because they are patiently waiting for their doctor’s appointment, but because they are sick and suffering.
Patience entails suffering because it involves longing for something desired that is not yet possessed. Patience keeps a lid on many emotions and vices that explode once patience is vanquished – among them frustration, anger, and despair. To the impatient person I always ask to pray to accept the events of life as they come, both good and bad. Embracing the reality of the present moment is the greatest weapon against impatience because it removes the suffering of wanting something else. Finding God in all things, especially when there is great uncertainty and suffering, is what allows for the practice of patience.
Saint Augustine wrote that “a man’s patience it is whereby he bears evil with an equal mind,” which in other words means that it is through patience that a person can bear evil without being disturbed by sorrow. The great sixteenth century Spanish mystic Saint Teresa of Avila included the following words in her beautiful and well-known prayer: “Let nothing upset you, let nothing startle you. All things pass; God does not change, patience wins all it seeks. Whoever has God lacks nothing: God alone is enough.”
The greatest example of patience is seen in our Creator. Pope Francis taught in a homily some time ago that “God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life.” God’s divine patience is directed toward the salvation of every man and woman. Despite our sin and ingratitude that hurt and offend God, He remains infinitely patient waiting for our return to Him. Jesus hangs on the cross quietly and patiently – offering Himself so that you and I may turn to the Father. If Jesus became impatient with us he would lose His ability to show us mercy when we approach with contrite hearts. God’s patience is like that of the Father of the Parable of the Prodigal Son who waited patiently every day for his son to come home.
In a time that many feel uncertain due to the drastic divisions in our Church and nation, Jesus calls us to bear our sorrows patiently, and to bear with one another in love. Pope Francis reminds us of how much patience God has with us, that we “do so many things, but He is patient.” Moving forward as the People of God and as a nation, we must move with hope because God is patient with us, and He invites us to be patient with others for both our and their salvation.