April 10, 2017: Monday of the Holy Week
According to the traditional catalogue of “fruits of the Holy Spirit,” patience is one of those perfections into which Lenten pilgrims must grow, as the itinerary of conversion gradually equips us to become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory of eternity within the light and love of the Holy Trinity. “Gradually,” of course, suggests that growth in patience is, more often than not, an exercise in patience.
The theme is introduced in the first reading at Mass, the first of the four Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah. Here, the chosen servant of the Lord is depicted as a man of godly forbearance, familiar with the weakness of humanity, who will reshape history according to the patient rhythms of the divine mercy:
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, Until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching. (Isaiah 42:1-7)
Patient waiting for the working out of the divine plan of salvation history is also the lesson taught by the psalmist in response to Isaiah’s portrait of the noble Servant of YHWH. As sung by the Church, the first and last verses of Psalm 27 are a confession of faith in the coming Kingdom—no matter how long delayed its advent may seem—and an admonition to patient, courageous, watchful waiting along the pathways of history:
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27)
The gospel reading for the day continues the story of Jesus’s friendship with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, which, read through the prism of today’s theme, appears as an ongoing lesson in patience. At their first encounter in Luke’s gospel, when a family disagreement breaks out over whether the duties of hospitality are being ignored, Jesus teaches Martha and Mary patience with each other: there is a place for work and there is a time for contemplation, but listening to the Lord should always inform the active life. Now, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a precious substance and dries them with her hair, and Judas complains about the waste of money this extravagance represents. Jesus tries—in vain, as the gospel of John has it—to teach Judas patience; seen with the eyes of faith, Mary’s anointing is not a waste of money, but a preparation for Jesus’s burial.
By GEORGE WEIGEL, ROMAN PILGRIMAGE: The Station Churches