One of my grandmother’s commonly-used expressions was “she [or he] would try the patience of a saint.”
The expression would have been an apt one to apply to Jesus’ disciples. In today’s Gospel from Mark, the disciples have difficulty understanding Jesus’ warning to them to “guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Consulting with each other (you can almost imagine the smoke coming out from their heads from thinking so hard), they come up with the brilliant notion that he must be referring to the fact that they had no bread.
Sigh. You can almost feel Jesus’ frustration in his words. Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? Don’t you remember, he chides them, that I fed five thousand with five loaves of bread and still had baskets full left? Do you still not understand? Can it really be that you still don’t get it?
And they didn’t get it yet. They were still completely baffled. It would take some of them a good long time before they got it.
But Jesus didn’t throw up his hands and say, “off with you. I’ll find some brighter students elsewhere.” As frustrated as he must have been as he increasingly became aware that his time with them was limited, He didn’t give up and walk away. Over and over again, he talked to them and tried to explain so that they could understand. What immense patience he showed them!
And how consoling to us…or at least to those of us who are a bit slow to understand at times. We don’t always get it right away, do we? Some of us would, indeed, try the patience of a saint. But, thankfully, Jesus’ patience is inexhaustible. He never gives up and instead is always willing to keep working with us. Always inviting us to greater understanding.
Thanks be to God!