I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
With these words of today’s Gospel, Our Blessed Lord wishes to help us understand the ways of God. God is not like man. Man is weak, and because he is weak, he seeks feverishly to amass knowledge and wealth. God is omnipotent, and because of this, He is in no hurry. He knows what He will do, and His plan will infallibly be realised. God is patient because he is strong. Man is impatient because he is weak.
In today’s epistle, St James admonishes us to be slow to speak and slow to anger, but prompt to listen. Prompt to listen to God, but also prompt to listen to man. So many evils are avoided when one knows how to be silent, to listen, to wait.
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. If we accept the pace of God, if we embrace the slow, persistent, relentless growth of nature and of grace, we will learn many things that we cannot bear now.
This morning at Matins, we heard St Cyprian sing the praises of the virtue of patience:
“If God is our Lord and Father, let us follow after the patience of Him who is both Lord to us and Father, for it belongs to servants to be obedient, and it becomes not children to be degenerate. It is patience which both commends, and preserves us to God. It is this that restrains anger, bridles the tongue, governs the mind, guards peace, regulates discipline, breaks the impulse of lust, binds down the violence of pride, quenches the flame of hatred, controls the power of the rich, comforts the want of the poor, maintains a blessed integrity in virgins, in widows a studious chastity, in the married a singleness of love, makes men humble in prosperity, brave in adversity, mild toward injuries and contempts; teaches quickly to pardon them that offend: teaches the offender to make entreaty long time and often; conquers temptations, bears persecutions, leads passions and martyrdoms to their consummation. It is this that firmly fortifies the foundations of our faith.”
In our spiritual life, more than in any other domain, we need to arm ourselves with patience. We are often impatient to become saints, and we imagine that, given all the efforts we have already put into our spiritual progress, we should already be on a pedestal or in a niche. But God does not ordinarily make saints overnight. He takes His time, He has all eternity.
This is something our Holy Father St Benedict knew from experience, and it is without a doubt the reasons he concludes the prologue of the Rule with the reminder that it is by patience in the monastery that we take part in the passion of Christ. Passionibus Christi per patientiam participemur – persevering in His teaching in the monastery until death, we shall share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve to be partakers also of His kingdom.
St Teresa of Avila too knew well the sovereign importance of patience. Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing afright thee. All things are passing, God alone suffices. Patience obtains all things.