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Ministries, Charisms, Fruits - 17 Patience

Saturday, June 06, 2009
Listed among the fruits of the Holy Spirit by St Paul in the letter to the Galatians is patience. Reflecting on what it means to be patient, I think that it is not often much in evidence today. We live a world that has been taught the value of the instantaneous. Information is now delivered from one part of the globe to another within seconds, travel gets ever faster as do, more and more. the types of food we eat. I heard a comedian once joke that the protest slogan of today’s generation would be: “What do we want? We don’t know! When do we want it? Now!”. Instant gratification without too much analysis can be all too tempting.

Yet St Paul speaks often of patience as being an important part of the Christian life. It is a sign of the life of the Holy Spirit within us. In Ephesians 4:1-3 he says: “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and in 1 Corinthians 13:4 he says that love is always patient. God is ever patient with us. His patience is based in his total love for us and its purpose is our salvation. Made in the image and likeness of God, we are called to become like God in patience. It is a virtue that calls us to hesitate before making judgements of others.

We look at how patient Jesus was with the multiple mess ups of Peter and the other disciples. How often they just did not understand him. Patience is such an important virtue in so many situations. Patience in discussions and heated debate is important because it is a simple recognition of the fact that elements of truth may be found on all sides. Patience with the mistakes and gaffs of others is also a simple recognition that we are not perfect either and appreciate patience and forgiveness when we make mistakes. Patience in suffering comes from an understanding that God will ultimately work for our good and that the horizon of time for the Christian is not this life but eternity.

Patience also builds character, allowing us to stand back from situations, to see things more clearly from other angles and to take the longer view into account. St Thomas Aquinas sees patience as part of the sustaining side of the infused moral virtue of fortitude. It is patience that keeps an unconquered spirit in times of trial and can be expanded into perseverance. Ultimately patience is a fruit of the Spirit that is an act of love for our brothers and sisters because it gives others the loving space to change, to grow and to find understanding. And in the busy and noisy world of today, a little more patience makes life so much easier for everyone.

David Barrins OP


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