We all know the feeling of waiting for that one guy who is always late. That feeling of quiet anger rising as the whole room waits for him to arrive so that the meeting can start. You try to be patient, you try some small talk, but soon the frustrating thoughts creep in… he always does this, God is he clueless, someone should say something to him. The moments drag by…then finally the tardy man arrives two minutes late, holding tea and toast.
St. Paul encourages us tonight to regard others as better than ourselves. Now please keep in mind St. Paul didn’t write these words on his honeymoon. He wrote these words in jail, locked up because he was a Christian. So even in chains he asks us to consider others as better than ourselves…that includes Mr. Tea and Toast.
Why would St. Paul write such a thing? Why not write something like follow the spirit of Christ and always arrive five minutes early so no has to wait for you? The genius of St. Paul was his vision for the long haul. He knew that having the patience to regard others as more important is a short term pain for a long term gain. In other words, patience is a good strategy.
Practicing patience means ignoring the tardiness of one man to focus on all the other people in the room. Sure, biting your tongue and not saying something to the guy who is always late may be painful, but the ability to focus on the meeting at hand is simply a more Christ like way to live.
Our Rule of Life says this much better than I can. In the chapter On the Challenges of Life in Community, it says Christ uses everyday tensions and frictions “for our conversion as we grow in mutual forbearance and learn to let go of the pride that drives us to control and reform our brothers on our own terms”. We do not have the power to reform other people’s behavior, but we do have the power to choose our attitude in responding to other people’s behavior. St. Paul knew having an attitude rooted in patience for other’s mistakes was essential for any Christian to survive and stay sane.
This does not mean we have to be doormats though. St. Paul also encourages us to have the mind of Christ. Now certainly Jesus had patience, but he wasn’t afraid to confront someone if their behavior wasn’t good for the whole. We have to live in a tricky balance of patience and honesty, with the same mind for the greater glory of God that Jesus had.
We celebrate the beginning of Advent tonight. If ever an Advent called for patience, it is Advent 2020. We might call this one the Advent of patience. For patiently or impatiently, we are all waiting for something tonight. We may be waiting for supper, the Sabbath, a vaccine, days with more sunlight, and of course God. We may be waiting to touch base and catch up with God after whatever stress, busyness, and distractions caused us to miss his calls.
Finally, tonight we may be waiting for ourselves. We may be praying that the parts of ourselves that we regard as better to come and stay through the long winter night. We may be praying that God give us the patience to accept ourselves, bad habits and all, as we inch our way through this season.
The next few weeks are some of the darkest weeks of the year. Jesus promises us that what is said in the dark will be heard in the light. So grab hold of God in the darkness and tell him everything. Don’t hold back. Let it all out. He’s a lot more patient than we are.
Lectionary Year and Proper: Year B, 1
Solemnity or Major Feast Day: Feria
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