I’d bet that most of us have seen a time-lapse video before: one of those videos where a photo is taken every minute, hour, day, etc., and then run it all together so you can see change occurring in a way you couldn’t if you’d just stood there looking at the object normally. It’s a kind of surreal experience honestly, watching 10 years of daily photos in about 5 or 6 minutes seeing someone age over those 10 years or seeing the same thing happen with a tree growing, or a river changing its course, or anything of the sort.
It is this kind of photography that I am reminded of by today’s readings, which seem to counterbalance our desire to see growth and improvement happening now. We are reminded in the first reading of God’s power, but that it is tempered by His forbearance and patience and mildness, and that these things are set as an example for us to imitate; there is a slowness to this way of being – it’s not laziness, but rather uses guidance and nurturing to allow things to unfold in due time rather than forcing them to be a certain way right now. The second reading (though quite short!) likewise asks us to keep in mind that some of the things which help us grow and develop happen without our seeing; the Holy Spirit helps us in prayer and builds us towards praying better, even if we don’t necessarily see or feel it!
Finally, the parables Jesus offers in the Gospel remind us that growth can be extraordinary, but which likewise requires patience. The workers in the parable of the wheat and the weeds want to go out and rip everything up right away – the Master tells them not to, but rather to let things come to fruition. Think how frustrating it must have been for them to see all the weeds growing up among the grain! But when the harvest time came, they were able to bring in much more than they would have gotten if they had jumped the gun. The growth of the mustard seed and the leavened bread is much the same – the growth of something small into something abundant in ways which may be imperceptible, but which are nevertheless occurring!
We all know how difficult and frustrating it can be waiting for growth or change to happen. Restlessness and the desire to see fast and immediate results of our decisions are very real temptations, yet this week’s readings remind us that there is a great deal of patience required in growing. I wish to close this week by suggesting a prayer. This was written by Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. as a reflection, and I would encourage you to take up his words this week as a prayer and a tool to fight against our own occasional impatience with God and with ourselves:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Peace and All Good,