This weekend, a very good friend of mine, Armando Herrera, was ordained a priest. Thanks be to God! At long last — after so much eager, yet patient waiting and preparation — we finally received a brand new Father… and Fr Armando received a new identity. Now he is a priest forever after the Heart of Jesus.
It’s rare for an ordination to happen during this time of year — in December, in the middle of the season of Advent. Usually they happen in June.
But I find it to be incredibly appropriate that we had an ordination in the middle of Advent.
Think about it — Advent is all about that beautiful mixture of patience with holy impatience.
And that’s basically what seminary is in a nutshell — It’s like one big long season of Advent! Of waiting and preparation. Christ is coming! New priests are on the way! Get ready!
And on the one hand, we CAN’T WAIT for more and more priests to be ordained. In an all-too-real and practical sense, we can’t ordain them fast enough! There’s just not enough of them around. So lay on those hands, Bishop! Put the face to the marble, guys…. It’s time to go into action! Send them out NOW!!!! The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few! There’s no time to waste!!! What are we waiting for!?!?!?
And yet… we ALSO know that we need to be patient. The priesthood is not something we can or should rush or force. In actuality, we WANT our seminarians to take as long as they need to prepare well for the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We WANT them to discern as long as it ought to take!
Seminary is more like a garden than a factory. It’s an orchard… not a conveyor belt. The seminary is supposed to be a place where seeds are planted in good, healthy soil. They are sown in hiddenness, and we the Church, like a wise and faithful farmer, wait patiently for those buried seeds to sprout, and become little saplings, and eventually, after many years, prayers from parishioners like you, and by the grace of God… they will hopefully grow into full-grown trees.
But nobody wants half-grown, rushed, forced trees!
So we find this necessary mixture — patience and holy impatience.
What we heard in our second reading this weekend in the letter of St. James is applicable here:
“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…. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.”
Be patient! …But know that Jesus the Judge is at the gates! Be patient AND impatient at the same time!!! This mixture is at work in all sorts of different situations we find ourselves in in life:
We face it in dating relationships and even in marriage — You need to be patient — you need to wait for a relationship to develop, you can’t just force it — and yet without intentionality and appropriate urgency, without taking good, healthy risks, without becoming vulnerable… will the relationship actually progress and deepen? Unlikely.
Or what about health issues? When you’re sick, you need to be patient. You need to bear with the suffering. Undergo the tests. Wait for the results… Give yourself time to heal… And yet, you also need to be proactive, advocate for yourself or your loved one, you need that zeal, that holy impatience, to get better as soon as possible!
We face the same sort of mixture of patience and holy impatience when it comes to our own moral lives, too. We need to be patient with ourselves as we strive for virtue and pursue holiness. Nobody’s gonna be perfect right away. We need to humbly acknowledge that we’ve still got a long way to go, and it will take time! Be patient!!! The Lord is teaching you SO MUCH in all the failures and the falls. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more!” And yet — we still need to hold on to that holy impatience that says: I want to be done with sin right this second! Not later! I want the grace to REPENT! How LONG Lord, until I’m free? When will I be able to be pure? To be generous? To forgive? To say ‘no’ to temptation?
St. Josemaría Escrivá captures all this tension — this mixture of patience and holy impatience very well when he says this: “It is good that your soul should be eaten up by that impatience. But don’t be in a hurry. God wants you to prepare yourself seriously, taking all the months or years necessary, and is counting on your decision to do so.”
And so we wait patiently — with a sort of holy impatience — for all the good things God has promised us.
Now to be sure, there’s regular old sinful impatience, too, and we do need to actively avoid falling into that as much as possible. As St. James reminded us: “Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another.” Don’t complain. Be patient instead!
This can be incredible difficult. Like when we’re stuck behind that car going 25 in a 45 mph zone. Or when politicians, supervisors, coworkers, or even bishops and priests do stuff that drive us completely and absolutely nuts. Or when we face all the inconveniences and struggles, big and small, that every single day throws at us — kids having meltdowns, broken-down appliances, health set-backs, financial problems, spouses doing the same thing over and over again that you gently, kindly, so VERY patiently asked them not to do a thousand times…
Sinful impatience is very tough to drive out of our hearts. But maybe part of the remedy is to ask God for holy impatience instead.
We catch something of this holy impatience in our Gospel this weekend…. when John the Baptist sends his disciples out to ask Jesus point blank: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” In other words: ”ARE YOU THE GUY OR NOT??? SHOULD WE KEEP WAITING???? WE’RE GETTING A LITTLE ANTSY, JESUS.”
The Lord only replies by pointing to his works. They speak for themselves!
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
Apparently that was enough for John the Baptist! That sold him! Just this simple testimony alone somehow set John at ease in his prison cell. This man, so filled with the urgency and zeal of the Old Testament prophets, could now patiently endure his imprisonment. He could wait with joyful expectation.
Right now, we are eagerly waiting for Christmas with what we hope is John the Baptist’s holy impatience, mixed with holy patience. We need BOTH!
We are actively preparing the way of the Lord! He’s coming! Be vigilant! He will not delay! Christmas is SO CLOSE…
And YET we also don’t want to rush it, do we? No, of course not! We don’t want to hurry past this season of spiritual waiting. We instinctively know that these 4 weeks of Advent should not be a dizzy blur that we just skip past to get on with Christmas! No — We want to be take the time to meditate on, and prepare to celebrate to the full this core mystery of our faith:
God made man. God WITH us…
Jesus Christ, conceived at the Annunciation on March 25th, and then knit together so meticulously in the Virgin’s womb for 9 long, slow, beautiful, patient months…
How patient God is!
I suppose it makes sense that God would be patient. After all, God is Love, and as St Paul says so memorably: “Love is patient.” So that makes God patient! God is patient with us! Thank you Jesus for being so patient!
Tertullian, one of the early Fathers of the Church, put this reality of the Lord’s patience into words when he wrote this:
“God suffers Himself to be conceived in a mother’s womb, and awaits the time for birth; and, when born, bears the delay of growing up.”
Have you ever thought about that? How strangely patient God is!
If it was up to us to save the world, I think we’d probably hurry around very restlessly… very anxiously… and very impatiently. We’d say: Well, the world needs to be FIXED NOW…. souls are at stake, are they not? Sin, ignorance, evil, and sickness are in the world! Get it all out RIGHT THIS SECOND…
…But that’s not how God chose to save the world…
Christ came to save the lost. He couldn’t wait to save us — and yet, he DID wait.
God patiently waited 9 months in the womb. And then He waited another 30 years to grow up. And then He waited two thousand years… until we all came along to St. Bede today.
And here we are!
But now Jesus invites each of us: “Follow me now. Not later. Not tomorrow. Choose Me now! I’m here now.”
What a strange mixture of patience… and holy impatience we find in Jesus Himself!!!
The color of our vestments this Sunday — Gaudete Sunday — announces and proclaims this weird mixture! A wise priest told me just the other day… you might know him…. His name is Fr Cassidy.
He explained to me that the color ‘Rose’ that we wear on the Third Sunday of Advent is a visible mixture of the penitential violet of Advent and the joyful white of Christmas. It’s as if even our vestments are getting a little impatient for the arrival of the newborn Messiah!
Thankfully, He is well worth the wait.
So, as we get closer and closer to Christmas, let’s ask God to make us truly patient in all the right ways. And truly impatient in all the right ways.
Let’s ask for that mixture — so that we can look forward with eager, joyful longing for the birth of Christ in our world, in our families, and in our hearts.