Patrick’s Confession (17)
Because I owe a great deal to God. He gave me this great boon: that through me many heathen should be reborn in God, and that afterwards they should be confirmed as Christians, so that everywhere clergy should be ordained for a population newly coming to the faith, a population which the Lord redeemed from the ends of the earth, just as He had promised through his prophets: “The nations will come to you from the ends of the earth and will say: ‘How empty are the idols which our forefathers erected and they are of no use’”; and again: ‘I have placed you as a light among the nations so that you may bring salvation even to the end of the earth.’”
And it is there that I choose to await His promise – in which, at least, He will never fail – as is stated in the Gospel: “They will come from the east and from the west and will recline at table” with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob: so we believe that believers will come from the whole world.
Translation Liam De Paor, St. Patrick’s World
Patrick provides a classic example of the power of faith. Believing God had called him, he went to Ireland. Believing the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, he preached it fearlessly to lost pagans. Thousands believed. Believing more would come to Christ, Patrick persevered. And believing his work was not yet finished, he chose to remain in Ireland, seeking the promise of God, rather than to return to Britain to be judged by some spurious council.
Why did Patrick do this? He “owed” it to the Lord for saving Him. Not only that, but God honored his steps of faith by working through him so that “many heathen” should come to faith in Christ. These he prepared for baptism, confirming them as members of the Body of Christ when they were ready (following ancient practice). And from these he selected some for further training, that they might become priests and pastors to watch over the many who were entering the flocks of the Lord.
Patrick believed the Scriptures and he believed God’s calling on his life. His life was shaped by his faith, not the other way around. You are what you believe, as Patrick demonstrates.
The phrase, “I choose to await His promise”, is most telling. The Latin, uolo expectare, is rather more intensive than our translation, something more like, “I’ve made up my mind to wait with eager longing” for God to fulfill His promises of more coming to the faith. That “waiting” involved daily, earnest, focused striving after the promises of God, and we can see which promises Patrick was clinging to for his mission.
Do we believe that people will come to faith in Jesus Christ when we share the Gospel fearlessly with them? Well, when we do, then we too, like Patrick, will be able to prove the promises of God.