Today, May 17, is Day Four of our Pentecost Novena led by Bishop Earl Boyea with today’s meditation dwelling upon another of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Patience. Here is what Bishop Boyea has to say:
“Be patient…until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it…. Take as an example of hardship and patience…the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (James 5:7a, 10).” So does St. James write toward the end of his letter. Yes, most of the prophets were quite patient, but not so Jonah. His life shows more the patience of God and how God tried to drum that into Jonah’s head!”
Now patience, as listed by St. Paul, is not about our self-control or our resignation in the face of things we cannot change or hurry along. No, this patience is a gift of God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus, this gift tells us, in many ways, more about God than about ourselves.
So then how will the Holy Spirit help us with this gift of patience? I believe there are three ways. First, we will come to see that we cannot be impatient with God’s patience. Jonah was ordered to go to the pagan city of Nineveh and preach. Jonah wanted nothing to do with this. He didn’t think that God should have any concern about pagans, about Israel’s enemies. So, Jonah ran away in the opposite direction and got on a ship. But God got him thrown overboard, swallowed by a whale, and then vomited up back on the shore where he had started. God was incredibly patient with his prophet Jonah. I would have simply appointed a different prophet. The fruit of the Spirit’s work in us will help us never to give up on one another. God has a plan for each of us. We must be patient with ourselves and others as we figure out God’s will in our lives. You see, this is not about our patience so much as it is about our living with and accepting God’s patience with his people even when we think they don’t deserve it.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit will help us rejoice with the conversion of others no matter how difficult it is for us. Jonah did not want the Ninevites to convert. He hoped that his preaching in the city would lead to their destruction. But after only one day of hearing his preaching, the King of Nineveh led his people to conversion. Instead of experiencing God’s wrath at their evil and sinfulness, as Jonah hoped, they felt instead God’s mercy and grace and tenderness. God’s patience won out. But Jonah had no patience with God’s patience. He was ticked and so he pouted. The Holy Spirit will counter this attitude in our lives and will give us the patience of God, the patience to endure difficulties as God seeks a change of heart, a change of heart in our own lives and a change of heart even in our enemies.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will help us to see with God’s eyes, that is, to see the long road. God gives us poor humans time to repent, time to love. God knows how weak we are, and his mercy gives us the time to know God’s loving will for us and to embrace that. Thus, this gift of patience becomes a spiritual force in us, seeking God’s glory in all things and in all people. We are not judges. We look to God in all things. The final scene has Jonah sitting by a hut, looking over the city of Nineveh, and being very upset with God. God then provides him a shade tree in that heat and then lets the tree die. Jonah is really angry now and shows that he is more concerned about a plant and his hot head than about all those souls in Nineveh, than about God’s will. The Holy Spirit gives us the patience to see aright.
My sisters and brother, the result of this great gift will be the ability to be patient as God is patient, not hurrying God up but being open to God’s will on God’s time; not seeking ill for others, especially those who may be our enemies but waiting for God’s grace to change hearts; not being impatient with God, but seeing God’s plan as the only plan for our lives.