On the Third Sunday of Advent this year, many of us heard a reading from the Letter of James:
Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
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.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Patience, of course, is associated with the season of Advent whether it is eagerness for Santa on the part of the very young or a more mature pondering of the coming of the Son into the world. In a culture in which Christmas sales can begin around Halloween (or even earlier), the practice of patience can be a challenge as again and again Christians seek to resist the commercialization of the feast, with Pope Francis warning this year that materialistic “worldliness has kidnapped Christmas” (Christmas Eve homily).
Christmas Day 2016 is now in the past. If we have managed to celebrate a non-kidnapped Christmas, good for us. But if we have managed to celebrate a non-kidnapped Christmas (or even if we have been less than successful in this regard), the need for patience persists. Patience, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1832) is a trait for all of the Christian life and one to which our liturgies always summon us. Worship of God always invites us to have the mind of Christ, to take up his self-offering love and make it real and effective in our lives. “By living with the mind of Christ, Christians hasten the coming of the Reign of God, ‘a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.’ They do not, for all that, abandon their earthly tasks; faithful to their master, they fulfill them with uprightness, patience and love” (CCC, no. 2046).
Patience is not a substitute for the pursuit of justice and compassion in the world. It is a complement to that pursuit, borne up always by the gracious God who seeks to bring to completion the good work that he has begun. May our worship always sustain us in this pursuit.