The Readings for the 6th Monday of Ordinary Time (B2)
My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations; Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.
In short, the Apostle is saying here, “Remember how Jesus just submitted to all the bad stuff done to him? That’s your job too. Bear it up in patience and that patience works on you and it will make you perfect.”
There is this traditional morning prayer in the Liturgical West. It’s found in the 1962 Missal, in the St Ambrose Prayerbook, in the Key of Heaven (my copy comes from the 1920s) and I can find online versions of it back into the early 1800s. It says,
Adorable Jesus! Divine Pattern of that perfection to which we should all aspire, I will endeavor this day to follow Thine example: to be mild, humble, chaste, zealous, patient, charitable and resigned. Incline my heart to keep Thy commandments. I am resolved to watch over myself with the greatest diligence, and to live soberly, justly and piously, for the time to come. I will take care of my words, that I may not offend with my tongue. I will turn away my eyes, that they may not see vanity; and I will be particularly attentive not to relapse this day into my accustomed failings, but to struggle against them with Thy gracious assistance. Enlighten my mind, purify my heart, and guide my steps, that I may pass all my life in Thy divine service. Amen.
It pairs well with the morning use of the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus which refers to Jesus a “meek and humble of heart” and also “most obedient” and “most patient”. Obedience to God’s will means realizing that nothing can happen to you without God’s allowing it and he must be allowing it for your salvation, so your job is to wait, patiently, until the tides change.
And all of it is joy.
Patience has never been a strong suit for me. By patience I don’t mean waiting for the Senex and Anucella in front of me at the store or the smiling while the family of four folds their clothes, one piece at a time coming from the dryer. Totally some good things to practice on, but not the sort of patience we are talking about here. A good and saintly (and humorous) example of patience comes from St Laurence who, whilst being roasted on a gridiron, rather famously said, “I’m done on this side. Turn me over.” Or all the Martyrs of England who so elegantly prayed for their Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth I, even as she sent them to the hurdles and gallows.
Count it all joy when crap happens to you.
In the Gospel today Jesus says this generation demands a sign but no sign shall be given to it. We want what we want when we want it. When we don’t get it we huff away sad. Jesus said, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” And then he was brutally tortured and killed. And silent the whole way down his path. It’s a sign: but it’s not the sign we want to see, so we can’t see it. But it is our salvation.
In our world today we are more likely to seethe with rage, or rant online, to complain, to whine, to binge drink, or to go postal. Passive aggression is not patience. Finding out an employee has plotted for a long time to quit “suddenly” just before the Holiday Insane Season is not the sort of thing that makes one give good references.
Work can be that way, but we’ll do it for anything: avoiding conflict in the face to face, but convinced we’re being oppressed in the worst way. We function in what you could call the bite or bide reflexes, sit here and bide my time until it’s time to bite.
This is not patience. It is, however, madness. How do we get the spirit of Patience that St James is talking about? How do we find the time to bear as in joy all the things that come to us?
There’s this other prayer, written by Pope St Pius X, that is filled with ideas about work but is equally applicable to the line at the grocery store, the laundromat, the freeway. Anything in our life that seems to be sucking the life blood out… if we treat it as a joy… will be for our salvation.
O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death. Amen.
That’s the key to joy: to move forward (in whatever process we’re talking about here) mindful of the call of duty above my natural inclinations. No one wants to be roasted on a gridiron. But it can be joyful.