Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A Lenten pursuit of patience

By BISHOP JOEL M. KONZEN, S.M. | Published March 2, 2022  | En Español

We are at the beginning of the Lenten season. As we set out on the journey of repentance, eager to prepare properly for celebrating the miracle of the Resurrection and its shower of forgiveness and blessing, we assess what kind of sacrifice we can make during Lent. There is the giving up of something that we truly like, and then there is the taking on of an action that demonstrates a closer walk with the Gospel. I want to suggest that an apt goal this Lent would be the pursuit of patience.

Bishop Joel M. Konzen, S.M.

A yellow light on the highway used to signal “Slow down—start stopping.” Now most drivers rush through the light, often not before it turns red. We are in a constant hurry, many times without really knowing why. It is simply a habit. True, we sometimes get a late start because an unexpected interruption has appeared in our schedule. But it’s not just the daily rush; it’s also our unwillingness to listen, to ponder, to meet someone else halfway.

In confession, we admit, “I need to be more patient.” So, part of our penance, our will to improve, to sin no more, ought to be fervent prayer and a plan for patience.

St. Paul, in the passage from First Corinthians that we often hear at a wedding, tells us that “Love is patient; love is kind.” That is our first challenge. We say that we do love others, and that we are basically trying to live a Christ-like life. Our love, then, must be patient. Will I ask God to help me to stop before answering someone uncharitably? Will I ask God for the grace to be more forgiving? Will I ask God for more willingness to wait?

The powerful of the world do not like to wait; they have become accustomed to swift service. The powerless, on the other hand, spend their lives waiting for help, waiting for work, waiting for answers. If it is Christ who we want to be like, we cannot demand or command a life without waiting. Jesus was not patient with hypocrites, but he was patient with sinners and patient in suffering. He took time to instruct his disciples with care.

So part of our prayer for patience should be, “Lord, make me more comfortable with waiting”—waiting for a child to understand a certain truth, waiting for an elderly parent to agree, waiting for a sign that we are on the right path.

Our largest task on earth is waiting for the moment when we might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Now enter into your master’s joy.” Interestingly, we don’t find waiting for the completion of this assignment quite so hard.

The 12th chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is full of very practical advice for living according to God’s law and making the world a happier and more understanding place. In verse 12, Paul says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer.” That is not a bad motto for this Lenten project.

Not long ago I heard a retreat master say that our culture of secular fulfillment—what I must have to be considered prosperous and successful—has left people angry and without hope or faith. This is the danger of pursuing always more, and faster. And it is why we need patience as we await the bounty of the Resurrection.

“Make me an instrument of your peace,” prays St. Francis. We see what happens when we are impatient instruments. We resort to force and violence, retreat to fear and anger. We share in Christ’s sacrifice when we are willing to wait, to be patient. And we will share also in his joy and triumph over death.

Easter will come soon enough. Let us make much of the journey and savor the steps, the moments along the way.