This year I celebrated Pentecost in the prison! No, I was NOT arrested (yet!) but we went there to celebrate an early Vigil with the inmates. It was a very moving celebration. Very fitting because the whole purpose of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to free us from the shackles of our wrongdoing and burst open the self-made penitentiary that we have created.
As I looked around me and saw the suffering of these men, I realized how hard life can be … accidents, drug addictions, anger, dysfunctional families, violence. When the inmates started sharing, I had shivers in my body! Life is beautiful yes… but it can be hard also.
How can we tackle the trials that come in our way? Getting angry or impatient will not solve our problems. Cursing and drinking only complicates more our life. Worrying leads to added frustration. Saint Paul perhaps hits the nail on its head when he recommends wisely, to be ‘patient in tribulation’.
The purposes of God often develop slowly. He has his own timetable that is so different from ours. We want everything done now. Many times He prefers to wait. He cannot be hurried! Some of the greatest missionaries of history devotedly spread the seed of God’s Word and yet had to wait long periods before seeing the fruit of their efforts. Blessed Diego never saw the results of his works in the Marianas.
A well-known preacher, noted for his poise and quiet manners, was seen once pacing tensely in his room, “What’s the trouble, Father?” someone asked him. And the answer was quick in coming, “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!”
But this taking-it-easy by God is always for our own good. It took God five days to create the heavens, earth, sun, moon and every living thing; one whole day to fashion man in his image before the fall of man. Ever since the fall, God has been working on restoring us to him. What patience God has toward us!
There is an old traditional Hebrew story that tells us that one evening Abraham was sitting outside his tent when he saw a weary old man, coming towards him. Abraham immediately rushed out, greeted him, and invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man’s feet and gave him food and drink.
When the old man started eating without saying any blessing, Abraham asked him whether he worships God. The old traveler replied, “I worship fire only and reverence no other god.” When he heard this, Abraham was so incensed that he grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his tent into the cold night air.
Soon afterwards, God came looking for the stranger. Abraham replied, “I forced him out because he did not worship you.”
God amazed, simply said, “I have put up with him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night!?”
Yes, “patience is the companion of wisdom,” said Saint Augustine. A couple of weeks ago, early in the morning, I met a wise girl. Coming from the airport at 2am (I had just returned to Guam) I took down to my room a copy of the Pacific Voice. On the front page there was this amazing story and this stunning photo of Tash, a young Chamorro girl who passed away just one year ago at the age of fifteen.
“My name is Natasha L. G. Perez. I am twelve years old and I have cancer. This is my story” she writes in an essay. “It all started when my left knee began to ache. My Mom and I thought it was part of the usual growing pains…” It was more serious. Three years followed, three years of pain, joys, traveling to hospitals in Michigan and New York, growth, faith, hope, God…
It was during this time that she wrote an essay for her theology class at the Academy on the Abraham’s test to sacrifice his son. Her conclusion is so perceptive. “But after reflecting about the story more openly, I realized that the moral of the story is: We are not equal to God, God is powerful and the one in charge. We should not question why He does certain things or permits things to happen especially if we don’t know his planned outcome….” Suffering accompanied with patience made Natasha wise.
Ralph Emerson is right. “Patience and fortitude conquers all things.”
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.