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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pope Francis on patience

The Holy Father’s homily on Monday in the small chapel of the Casa Santa Marta (which, it seems, will be his home for some time rather than the papal apartments) struck me because of its theme—one that needs repeating in the world of environmental protection, especially during these most important days of Holy Week.

Here’s what Vatican Radio reported about the words of Pope Francis:
[The pope] said “The emblem of the infinite patience that God has for man is reflected in the infinite patience that Jesus has for Judas.”
Pope Francis was inspired by the scene of today's Gospel, in which Judas criticizes Mary, sister of Lazarus, for anointing Jesus' feet with three hundred grams of precious perfume: it would be better - says Judas – to sell it and give the proceeds to the poor. John noted in the Gospel that Judas was not interested in the poor, but in stealing the money.
Yet, Pope Francis said, "Jesus did not say: 'You are a thief.’” Instead “he was patient with Judas,” trying to draw him closer through patience, his love. During Holy Week, we would do well to think of the patience of God, the patience that God has with each one of us, with our weaknesses, our sins.
"The patience of God is a mystery!" Pope Francis said. "How much patience he has with us! We do so many things, but He is patient.”
The Holy Father likened him to the father in the Gospel, who "saw his son from afar, the son who had left him with all of his inheritance." And why, the Pope asked, did he see him from afar? "Because every day he went out to see if his child would return." This, Pope Francis affirmed, "is God's patience, this is the patience of Jesus." 
He concluded: "Let us think of our personal relationship, in this week: How patient has Jesus been with me in my life? Just this. And then the words will rise from our hearts: 'Thank you, Lord! Thank you for your patience."
These words haunt me because in the world of ecological protection there is often a great deal of impatience, personal attacks, and character assassination. Such vice has no place among disciples of Christ who seek to care for creation. Indeed, caring for creation cannot occur unless we first care for our brothers and sisters—even when they disagree with us.

My recent piece about energy in Catholic World Report resulted in discouraging comments by those who are convinced that the science of climate change is a scam—or worse. But then, I have known colleagues to say unkind words about the “crazies” that question the science of climate change.

This back and forth is unhelpful. And it is very often unchristian.

And so in Holy Week, we ecologists who proclaim Christ Crucified and Risen have this task: to double our efforts to love those that disagree with us—those who refuse to accept what science is showing us about man’s impacts on the created order. Just as Christ has patience with us, the Holy Father reminds us, so we must have patience with others. This is of course not easy (which is why we need God's grace). 

Still, as our Lord could forgive those who crucified Him, we must attempt to forgive those who attack us, whether personally or professionally. In fact, as Christians, we are called to love them. We are called to offer them again and again a path for dialogue. Patience does not mean accepting and enabling ignorance, fear, or unkind (and unprofessional) words. It means bearing them in love and with the hope of conversion.

Let us then heed the reminder of Pope Francis about the great mercy, love, and patience that God has for us, and let us seek to mirror this love and patience in our encounters with others.

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