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Sunday Readings for Dec. 12, 2010 (3AdvA)
By Fr. John Foley, S. J.
Sunday’s readings are about patience, but they are really about humility.
Patience says, “No need to worry endlessly about the future. Slow down, look around, live.”
Jesus was patient this way. He waited eons to be born into the world. He suckled at Mary’s breast till full, and then waited as he was gently burped. And think of his years as a carpenter. God’s beloved, making a chair. And then another chair.
Mary was patient this way. Her lifelong closeness to God, her saying yes, her nine months, her days at his side, her place at the cross. When the angel had announced to her, she had not demanded guarantees and security. She had offered trust, not demands.
Such beautiful sights.
And now for a contrast.
We have some very long traffic lights in St. Louis and they change to red just as I drive up. I watch my watch to see how long the proud light will show off its color. Sometimes it stays on for—listen to this—a minute and thirty seconds! Forever! I am late and in a hurry and a mechanical device is screaming, “No, no, you may not go,” even though there is no traffic whatsoever to stop for.
Do I seem impatient? I admit it, and I want to become patient. I want it this Advent especially. I want the desert and the parched land to exult. I want them to blossom with abundant flowers and cause me to rejoice with joyful song (First Reading)! I am impatient for it. But I have to wait.
I want patience and I want it now (just kidding).
We all know reasons why patience should be in our lives. It is a virtue. It is nice. Proper people have it, vulgar people don’t. It is good for others. Patience. Jesus was patient, Mary was patient, God is patient. Why can’t you and I be patient?
For one thing, it appears that we are actually being impatient about patience. Compare my description of the stop light above with the following portrayal of a farmer from the Second Reading:See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.*
Can you feel the difference? The man tilling tthe ground is quiet, almost glad to wait. He has a trust that the conditions will be right and that his waiting will blossom.
But I sense something else here. It is humility. We have spoken of it recently in these pages. To be humble is to be exactly what you are, not something larger or smaller than you are. It takes time to have this, but it is worth it.
In a famous poem, Percy Bysshe Shelley describes a terrifying monarch from the past. The following words appear on a broken-down pedestal lying all by itself in the desert:“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains.
Listen to the brag, look at the squashed wreckage.
Human beings have to become what they really and truly are: small creatures. Through our waiting we find that, tiny as we are, still, through gift, we have an openness to the real and consoling presence of God. No need to dress in fine clothing or live in royal palaces (Gospel).
Become yourself and be content.
_______________*I wrote a Church song called “Patience, People” (available on iTunes) that has these words of the farmer in it. The translation I used was:
See the farmer await the yield of the soil.
He watches it in winter and in spring rain.