THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Fourth Sunday after Easter
14 May 2017
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First among the attributes of Charity, St. Paul lists patience. Love is the first and the greatest commandment, and patience is its chief attribute. God is patient. He awaits our conversions, and gives us time to turn to Him. He patiently bore abuse and insult from His Chosen People in the Old Testament. He put up with this for the sake of those who would one day return His love.
God endured with forbearance the godless temples, the images of clay, the accursed abomination set up by men in contempt of His Honor and Majesty, yet He made His light to shine on the good and upon the wicked; His rain falls upon the just and the unjust alike. With what patience and impartiality the seasons at His command serve both the innocent and the guilty.
When Jesus came to this earth, He patiently awaited the time of His public ministry spending thirty years in relative anonymity. He patiently instructed His Apostles, preparing them to continue His Church and life in the world after He returned to His Father. We especially see the patience of Jesus as He remained silent as a lamb sacrificing Himself for us. He remained silent in the face of false accusers, evil rulers, and weak judges. He patiently bore scourges, crowning with thorns, mocking, being spit upon, reviled, and crucified. The motivation for all this patience was the love that He bore for us.
We find this patience emulated in the lives of the saints. St. Stephen, the first martyr, patiently bore his murder and even prayed for those stoning him in imitation and conformity to the sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross. We can see that Jesus could do this because He is God, but how were the saints able to practice such heroic patience? It is because they were filled with the love of God and the love of their fellow men. Because they loved, they were patient. It follows that were there is a lack of patience, there is also a corresponding lack of love. As love grows cold, so we see that true patience becomes increasingly scarce.
St. Cyprian instructs us: "Since we are to be proved and tested we have to endure much pain; and various kinds of trials are inflicted on us: by the loss of our possessions, by the heat of fever, by the pain of wounds, by the loss of our dear ones. And nothing will show more clearly the difference between good men and bad than the manner in which, in affliction, the wicked will complain and blaspheme in impatience, while the good man is proved by his patience; as it is written: In thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliations keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation (Ecclus. ii. 4)."
As patience is the gift and work of God, so impatience is the affliction of the devil. Just as Christ can be found in the patient man so the devil is found in the impatient man. The devil impatiently bore with the fact that God was above himself, and that man was made in the image and likeness of God. It was because of this that he perished and in the beginning ruined man. Adam failed to hold onto the grace of patience, and was unable to endure the command of God to abstain from the forbidden food and he fell to death. Cain was impatient of his brother's gifts and killed him. Esau, was impatient for a meal of lentils, and lost his birthright. The Israelites turned to idols because they grew impatient waiting for Moses to return.
Furthermore St. Cyprian says: "Patience makes men humble in prosperity, courageous in adversity, mild in the face of injuries and contempt. It teaches us how to forgive promptly those who offend us; and should we offend teaches us to plead long and earnestly for pardon. It withstands temptation, it endures persecution, it brings sufferings as well as martyrdoms to their perfect fulfillment. It is patience which makes firm the foundations of our faith. It is patience which subtly brings about the increase in our hope. It is patience which directs the mind to an awareness of what we are doing so that as we walk forward we may keep to the way of Christ. As long as we imitate the patience of our Father, this will enable us to continue to be Children of God."
We are invited by Jesus to be His followers; and His followers must deny themselves and take up their crosses daily to follow Him. This can only be well done when it is done patiently; and it can only be patiently done when it is motivated by Love. Love is the goal and the reward; and humble patience is the means we must use to reach it.
It is good for us to frequently remind ourselves that whatever it is that we have or experience in this life will soon pass away. The suffering and pain of this world is nothing compared to the unending suffering and pain in hell. The joy and pleasures of this world are, likewise, nothing compared to the eternal happiness in heaven. We can make ourselves worthy of the happiness of heaven by embracing the cross and suffering in this life. Or, we can make ourselves deserving of the misery of hell by seeking only the pleasures and joys of this world and shunning our crosses. Strangely enough, everyone in this life has a cross and suffering, whether they accept it or not. How miserable are they who seek to reject it now, but still have to suffer now and only secure for themselves an eternal suffering in hell. By accepting and embracing our daily crosses for the love of God, we secure for ourselves not more suffering, but rather, eternal happiness free from all suffering.
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