The man waiting patiently for a cure by the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem lay there off and on for some thirty eight years! Talk about long-suffering and patience. It even exceeds the patience of Job, the righteous Old Testament man characterized by patience in his suffering! Patience is a gift from God, a strength offered us by the Holy Spirit This unfortunate soul had to learn how to develop a new perspective on life in his limitations and suffering. He was a paralytic. When we are impatient, we have very limited perspective. All we see is ourselves, our needs, our desires, our goals, our wants, our schedule, and how others are messing up our lives.
There was no one there at the pool to place him in the water when the angel of mercy descended for a cure. Someone in better condition always entered the pool before him! No wonder; he couldn't move. So he learned the hard way that impatience is selfishness and he needed a new outlook. He became a very patient man. He needed to learn to see things from a divine, heavenly perspective. The lessons were not lost on him. If we desire success on any level, it is necessary we see things through the other person's eyes. If you want to be a successful husband or wife, see things from your partner's point of view. If you want to be a good parent, see things from your child's point of view. If you desire to save your soul, look for God's perspective in your situation.
Look at what the writer of the Book of Proverbs has to say: "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense" Proverbs 19: 11. Wisdom is seeing life through God's eyes. Now we certainly do not know the origin and continued frustration this man bore in paralysis, but he apparently learned that he was only human, he is not God. He is not perfect and not in control of life, God is. No one else is perfect either, so he was not surprised others who needed help jumped in before him for a cure. God is in control and He can use the situations the irritations, the limitations and the problems that come into our lives to accomplish his purposes for us.
The Book of Proverbs teaches us in another instant, "A man's steps are directed by the Lord" Proverbs 20: 24. This means that we may experience some divine delays, some heavenly interruptions. Sometimes God will put irritating people around us for the purpose of teaching us something worthwhile if we wish to learn from them. Throughout salvation history, our heavenly Father equates patience with maturity. "A patient man has great understanding, but a quick tempered man displays folly" Proverbs 14: 29. Most children are very impatient They do not yet know the difference between "No" and "not yet". Maturity involves the ability to patiently wait on God and let him be God; it means living with delayed gratification. A person of understanding and wisdom who sees life from God's point of view can be patient. An important step in becoming a patient person is to deepen your love.
St. Paul echoes this sentiment when he teaches "Love is patient" 1 Corinthians 13: 4. This means when we are impatient, we are being unloving because love is certainly patient. When you love someone, you care about that person's needs, desires, hurts, and point of view, not just your own. When you are filled with love, almost nothing can provoke you to anger because you want to be patient When you are filled with anger, anything will provoke you to an outburst. So we must deepen our love as apparently did the paralytic in today's gospel. "Be patient with one another, making allowance for each others' faults because of your love" Ephesians 4: 2.
Wasn't this the case with this unfortunate man? Finally, the most important step in achieving patience in this life is to depend on the Lord. Patience is not merely a matter of human will power; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. You cannot psych yourself up and say, "I am going to be patient if it kills me." Believe me, it will! Patience is not will power. Patience is not a fancy, attractive, lofty slogan. We cannot simply say, "He does not really irritate me" when in fact he is cutting you up inside. Patience is not wearing a mask and pretending. If it is God's patience you sense, if it is the genuine fait of the Holy Spirit, you will have a genuine inner peace.
Certain situations won't bother us they way they used to. Simply because you depend on the Lord! Patience is a manifestation of faith. It says, "I trust God. I believe God is bigger than this problem. And I believe that God has his hand in these irritations and can use them in my life for good." Faith helps us look at life from God's point of view. Faith helps us say, "Eternal Father, what do you want me to learn from this situation?" instead of "Why has this happened to me?" Because of faith we no longer need ask God, "Why did I get a flat tire while I was on the way to an important appointment?" Instead we can ask, "Lord how do you want me to grow and be a better person after this situation?"
Noah had to wait 120 years before the promised rain came. That is a long time to be patient. Abraham waited a hundred years to have a long promised son. That is a long time to be patient. Moses waited forty years in the desert to be called to God's service and then spent another forty years leading the children of Israel across the desert into the Promised Land. That is a long time to be patient. And near the end, unfortunately, he lost patience and God would not let him into the Promised Land. He knew what God wanted, and Moses understood it, that an entire span of a generation, some 40 years would pass before anyone would be allowed into the Promised Land because of their lack of faith and exercise of patience and trust in God. At the very end Moses forgo his commitment in faith and instead listened to the people and succumbed to their questioning of God's purposes. He too then was not allowed in the Promised Land.
Jesus himself appeared among us in infancy only when the fullness of time had come, not according to our schedule, but only according to God's time. In New Testament times, the disciples waited in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit. All of Scripture, all of God's revelation to us in Scripture is a description of waiting, of being patient. Why? Because waiting demonstrates faith and faith alone pleases God. The hardest kind of waiting happens when you are in a hurry and God is not. It is hard to be patient when you are waiting for an answer to prayer, waiting for a miracle to happen, or waiting for God to change your financial condition or your health problems or your children, your wife, your husband or that relative who is a kook.
It is hard when you are in a hurry and God isn't, but waiting precisely is an evidence of faith, with hope coupled to it so that we do not become forlorn. Patience is a test of faith. How long can you wait? Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus who became gravely ill. Martha and Mary, his sisters sent word to Jesus saying, "Lord, the one you love is sick" John 11: 3. Scripture tells us when Jesus heard this He purposely waited a few more days before He set out for Bethany, the town where they lived. By the time He arrived, Lazarus was already dead and in the grave. From all appearances, from our perspective, Jesus arrived too late. Yet Jesus was not too late. He simply walked up to Lazarus in the tomb and called out, "Lazarus, come out!" John 11: 43. And Lazarus did come out - alive!
'The point in today's gospel narrative is that God is never late; his timing is perfect. He may not move according to our schedule and most often doesn't, but He always is on time and purposeful. He wants us to trust him and wait for him. The Psalmist puts it this way; "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him" Psalms 37: 7. Earlier on the psalm writer instructs us to "trust" in the Lord, to "delight" in him and to "commit" our way to him. Psalms 37: 3 - 5.
God longs for us to trust him more than anything; patience is evidence of our faith in his good works and loving concern. He will act when it is best for us that He so act. So why should we be patient as was the paralytic in today's gospel lesson? Firstly because God is patient with our sinfulness and we are called to be like him. Peter urges us, "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation" 2 Peter 3: 15. God is patient. We must be patient. If we are his children, we should bear the family likeness. That is why the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives producing patience in us. It is a necessary part of the character of Christ. The paralytic was patient and lo and behold what occurs. The Son of God comes to him and cures him. What greater reward can anyone ask regardless how long is the suffering he endures!