By Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis
While finishing your shopping in the grocery store, you check out which line appears to be shortest. You see it and make a mad dash for it because you want to get out as soon as possible. You’ve already started unloading your cart when someone else gets in line behind you. Suddenly, you realize why the line was so short.
The person in front of you has a lot of coupons, some of which are expired. The person painstakingly goes through each one to sort them out. Then there’s a question about the price of an item and the bagger is sent running to check the price.
On top of that, the person in front is fumbling with the means of payment: credit card, debit card or cash. Credit card is selected, the person gets confused about how to use it and then wants to get extra cash from the transaction and, oh, doggone it, one of the eggs in the carton is cracked and the bagger now has to run for a new carton of eggs.
By this time, your patience has just about run out, you’ve scanned the headlines of all the tabloids and you’re doing everything you can not to say something rude. “Patience,” you counsel yourself, “patience.”
How often do we find ourselves in situations where the virtue of patience is sorely tested? This occurs several times a day and it’s a wonderful, envious thing to behold a truly patient person at work.
A good way to exercise patience in such patience-trying situations is to start saying the Hail Mary and keep repeating it until the situation has resolved itself.
Consider, though, that if we are so impatient with people and situations around us, how must God feel when He sees us holding up the line of spiritual growth or faith for others, much less ourselves? Of course, God has infinite patience but patience seems to have been an afterthought in the moments of creation because so little of it seems to have been given out.
In the Advent season, as we prepare for Christmas, there’s so much to do and so little time to do it. Our patience becomes tried, our nerves become rattled, and our fuses burn short.
It can be kind of sad that the preparation for the great day of the birth of Hope causes this in the life of the believer, but we are products of our times and subject to the whims of the world. With the secular world driving Christmas preparations and pushing us around, we just can’t seem to take the time we need for a good, spiritual preparation.
However, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the Messiah brings relief for all that disturbs us and we should try to be as patient as we can be as we await the great moment of celebration of the Nativity of Christ and His coming into our lives.
Try not to let the secular preparations get to you so much that you lose your patience and forget the infinite love of God for us. What we might see as a quick exit from the store just might take longer than we expected. Use the time well. Take those times when things unexpectedly come to a halt and use them to reflect on how patient God is with us when we hold up spiritual progress.
The next time you’re stuck in traffic or behind a slowpoke at the check-out counter, remember: Patience, patience, patience. Use that time to utter a few silent prayers that God will continue to be patient with us.
Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis is Diocesan Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and pastor of San Rafael Parish in Rancho Bernardo, where the preceding column first appeared in a parish bulletin.