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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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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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