“My patience is running thin.”
How many times have we each said this? Most of us know that patience is a virtue, but we may be stubborn with enacting it when things are not going our way. I think about how I’ve lost patience in those moments with students and family members. How I’ve constantly lost patience with the systems and structures that make people fight for basic needs, basic dignity. My patience at these moments often turns into anger and, at its worst, despair.
So, I found it interesting that the word “patient” or “patience” appears several times in our reading from James. It makes sense that, in the season of Advent, a sense of preparing and waiting is a mindset that we as believers should embody. However, this patience should not be confused with inaction or apathy.
It is not a patience that says “wait in line.”
It is not a patience that says “it is what it is.”
It is not a patience that is symbolized by a barren desert, devoid of life. If we look closely at the readings, we see that this patience is preceded by or connected with profound action. In order for the farmer to “wait for the precious fruit of the earth,” the farmer has to first plant the seed. We are told to “make our hearts firm” and “do not complain about one another” as we wait for the coming of the Lord. We are called to enjoin our patience for the coming of God’s will with a personal animation of our faith.
With that said, animating our faith during our time may be hard given social, political, economic, and spiritual hardships. So, how do we make sure our faith embodies both patience and action? We must rely on hope. A hope that is devoid of ego and fear but full of the knowledge that the victory will be ours.
That is the message of Advent, the birth of a new hope (I write this as I wear my Star Wars Christmas sweater). A birth that took place during the most trying of circumstances (fleeing an oppressive regime) in a place that no mother would want to give birth (in a stable). The birth of the Christ child reminds us that “the Lord God keeps faith forever…”
We are called to look at the Holy Family as a continued model for how patience and action, sustained by hope, can enliven our work and our faith.
Justin T. White is a theology teacher at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.