Creighton University's Online Ministries

Desiring Patient Fidelity
Often in the Midst of Great Poverty

In the Midst of Great Poverty.

Praying with the Nativity scriptures can help us with a profound support for our everyday lives.  The gospels paint us beautiful portraits of how Our God comes to us in the midst of great poverty.  The age of Elizabeth, Gabriel's annuniciation to Mary, no room in the inn, enemies out to get the newborn, all surround the central mystery - our God is faithful.  Our God's fidelity is not only not limited by great poverty, it is most apt in places of great poverty.  The way the nativity happened then can tell us a great deal about the "style" of our God.  And, it can open our eyes and our expectation to the places of great poverty in our lives now.  Whenever I ask, "How can this be a place of promise?" or "How can I expect God to be present in this mess?" I am being invited to experience the mystery of the Incarnation in my life.  Eventually, I begin to look for and to really anticipate special intimacy with Jesus in the difficult, challenging, painful, empty, power-less situations of my life.  If I desire to find intimacy with God in all things, I'll pay special attention to the povery places of my life.

Intimacy born of Patience.

The very root meaning of "patience" - from the Greek and Latin - is "to suffer."  We struggle to be patient, when we are reluctant to suffer.  We lose our patience, when others sin or disappoint us.  We are im-patient with anything that "takes time."  Each of us can name the ways that we can easily say, "I am not a patient person."  At our worst, we have a "hot head" or a "short fuse."

Actually, patience is something that is learned.  Like all virtue, it comes from practice - from developing a habit.  We develop the ability to be patient, through small experiences of suffering small things.  This "acceptance" - this living in trust with what is really before us - is practiced when we smile on a cloudy day, as we take a calming  deep breath when something doesn't go as we expected, whenever we endure with serenity even a small loss.  To be untroubled, unruffled by minor disappointments gives us the strength to develop greater patience - to suffer greater poverties.

Patience That Becomes Fidelity.

To grow in patience is to grow in fidelity.  Being faithful implies a whole host of things.  It doesn't mean we are perfect.  Fidelity begins with patience and it leads to living our faith with trust in God.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has these synonyms for "faithful":

  • Loyal - a firm resistance to any temptation to desert or betray;
  • Constant - stresses continuing firmness of emotional attachment without necessarily implying
    strict obedience to promises or vows;
  • Staunch - suggests fortitude and resolution in adherence and imperviousness to influences that would weaken it;
  • Steadfast - implies a steady and unwavering course in love, allegiance, or conviction;
  • Resolute - implies firm determination to adhere to a cause or purpose.
Each image of what fidelity looks like could be a meditation for us in the days ahead.

Desiring Patient Fidelity...

One of the biggest mistakes we make is to think that being faithful is a thing in our heads that we just decide to do, or a matter of "will power" that could be contained in a New Year's resolution.  In reality, patient fidelity is a gift from God.  For sure, it will involve choice and an emotional commitment on our part.  It will lead to death to myself more and more.  But it is fundamentally a grace from God.  Appreciating its power during this holy season - perhaps coming into great touch with my poverty and the areas that call to me for patience and fidelity - allows me to turn to God to ask for the gift.  To desire is to know what I need and to long for it. 

In the days ahead, while the memory of how our God faithfully comes to save us still fills our hearts, let's open our hands in prayer, to beg for the gift of patient fidelity.  The more we ask, the more we create a space in our hearts to long for the gift and to receive it.  The more we long for the gift, the more likely it will be that we will cooperate with the grace we receive.  Then, our hands will be open, holding out our whole lives in trust.  

 

Lord, Jesus, my life is in your hands.
It has always been your gift.
I know you want me to use it better than I do now.
I hold it all here for you to take it and receive it.
I surrender my life to you today, 
knowing you will teach me to imitate you in fidelity.
I hold up my poverty, my anxiety, all of my sadness.
I surrender them to you today,
trusting that you will fill me with enduring patience.

My desire is to be with you
in all the places you are not afraid to go.
My desire is to be transformed, freed, filled with joy,
that I might join you in loving as you have loved me.

With open hands,
I ask you to send me to be with others 
in all the poor places of their lives.
Give me your love and your grace,
and I will be at peace in my poverty
and ask only for the grace to serve you more and more.

Inspired by St. Ignatius' "Take, Lord, Receive" from the Spiritual Exercises.


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