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Bible Reflections View Comments

Cultivate a Spirit of Patience
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 15, 2013
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Advent is a time of waiting. We think of it as a time of preparation for Christmas, and indeed it is. But while we prepare, we also must be prepared to wait. Even in our daily lives during this month of December, we find ourselves waiting for mail deliveries, for cooking and baking to finish, and for guests to arrive. We wait for so many things. Waiting itself creates tension, especially when that waiting is so heavy with uncertainty. We like to be active. We like to prepare. But sometimes we need to let ourselves be prepared, as soil is prepared for seeds, as seeds are prepared for planting. The Letter of James counsels patience: “See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil.” A farmer plants seeds deep in the earth. He knows from experience that they will produce plants. But does he ever doubt? Waiting for the first green shoots to poke through the ground, does he wonder if some microbe or parasite has killed the seeds beneath the ground? Has the spring been too wet, too dry, too warm, too cold? In this time of frenzied activity, it is good to remember the natural cycle of the earth, the growth that takes place only in its own time. We can help it along, we can plant and nurture the seed, but in the end we can only be patient while the growth happens. And we might do well to recall that though the farmer or gardener might fret, the seed never does. The seed simply does what it is created to do: it rests; it grows; it is transformed. Much of the difficulty of waiting is the inability to trust, whether it be ourselves, others, or even God. Faith is the gift that enables us to overcome our fears and our mistrust and believe that we are waiting for the right thing and that it will arrive when the time is right. This time of year is one of activity, anticipation, and expectation. It is also a time of heightened interactions with families and friends. All of these things can put us on edge.

The Scriptures for this Third Sunday of Advent speak to the feelings of exhaustion and doubt that can creep up on us during Advent. We hear of John the Baptist, imprisoned for his efforts at preaching conversion and the kingdom. In his disillusionment, he begins to doubt whether Jesus is the Messiah at all.

Jesus responds by assuring John that the signs of compassion and healing indeed herald the kingdom of the prophets. And he praises John for his role as forerunner. Like the desert of Isaiah’s vision, John’s desolation now blooms with hope. A word from the Lord can refresh tired bodies and weary spirits.

We are each called to do a specific task fully and justly. We might follow John’s example. John accepts his role of prophet and forerunner and makes no grandiose claims of messiahship. Had he set himself up in rivalry with the one messiah, he would have been blown away as so much chaff. Instead, he was a grain of wheat contributing his part to the Bread of Life.

The Lord is near to us, he is Emmanuel, “God with us,” and this gives us the assurance we need to live the promise according to our means. The spirit of the Lord will lead us in the ways of the kingdom in good time—in God’s time.


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Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). 
<p>John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. </p><p>His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). </p><p>John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic. </p><p>The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus. </p><p>Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53). John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us pray to Our Lady, that she may protect us. In times of spiritual upset, the safest place is within the folds of her garments.

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