“Andy, … no te preocupes.” [literal translation: “Don’t worry yourself.”]
Simple. Essentially two words, “don’t worry”. I should be able to handle that… right? Well maybe not. If you really know me you know I’m going to worry,… a lot. But Fr. Santos Villegas knew that, and he meant it, directed straight at me, not at the others in the room, only to me. This was the first time he said this to me, but it would be far from the last. Here I was, a young man leading a group of nurses, teenagers, a priest, a nun, and a dozen college students, all thousands of miles from home in the middle of the Yucatan; living in a hut, working with the Mayans in the area to bring medicine, build a school, and more. I was tired, our plans for the next day had just fallen through, I had three sick teens from bad water, and I was starting to question if God really wanted me to be there. But this tiny little man (he was 4’11”), this priest, the holiest man I have ever met, knew better. God would provide, all I needed was some patience. Like I said, this was the first time that Padre Santos told me this, but it would be far from the last. Over the next 3 summers of working with this holy priest, I learned the true meaning of patience. Patience in adversity, more adversity than I had ever imagined. He worked among the poorest of the poor. He himself had very little. He traveled hundreds of miles between villages each week. When his little VW bug broke down, he did it on foot. When he broke his ribs, he drove that standard transmission car wincing in pain every time he pushed on the clutch. But he showed me that he never gave up hope. That he never rushed God. That he had faith,… a faith that proved itself every time that things went from bad to worse, and somehow ended up on track again. A faith, a patience, that I still try to have daily, yet fail at miserably.
In this week’s Gospel, Our Lord shares the parables of the grower, the yeast, and of the mustard seed. These stories are a call for us to have patience with God’s plans. It’s probably one of he hardest things we have to do as Christians. Things don’t always go according to our plans. In fact, they usually don’t go according to our plans. But for some reason, we as humans, always expect them to do so. It wasn’t any different in Jesus’ day either. The people of Israel had long awaited the coming of the Messiah. They expected him to be some great military leader or king who would free them from the Roman occupation and deliver them to a new Israel, as the patriarchs of old. When they encountered this lowly carpenter from Nazareth, many did not know what to make of it. Surely, he wasn’t going to cause the military coup that they had expected. But then he started talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven”… so does that mean that he is going to bring us to it,…. Like RIGHT NOW? Jesus is trying to convey just the opposite to the crowds in the parables this week. No, its not going to happen right this minute. In fact, it’s probably not going to happen right when we want it to do so. But, God has a plan and its our job to be patient. He will provide. He is a God who keeps his promises.
In this modern day, we still have a problem with patience. In fact, if you ask most people, we may have a worse problem with it. We live in a society of instant gratification: video on demand, fast food, same-day service, 1-hour dry cleaning… listen to us, we are the most impatient creatures ever. And we want the same when it comes to God. We want our prayers answered our way, now. We want a sign that things will work out. Thousands of people flock to the Prosperity Gospel churches where they are told “Today you will have a miracle!” Why, because we are impatient.
This is precisely what Jesus is talking about. Do not worry yourselves. Have patience. Have faith. That tiny little mustard seed will eventually grow to a giant tree.
So, in the words of my friend Padre Santos, I say, “No te preocupes. Don’t worry.” Have patience my friends, slow down and let God do his work.
Andy Pitts is the Pastoral Coordinator for the Society of St. Gregory the Great, a community of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, in Mobile, AL, as well as a Deacon Candidate. He has worked professionally and volunteered for nearly two decades as a youth minister, pastoral assistant, and catechist. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of South Alabama and an M.S.-MIS from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.