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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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Athanasius: Athanasius led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the Church. He was the great champion of the faith against the widespread heresy of Arianism, the teaching by Arius that Jesus was not truly divine. The vigor of his writings earned him the title of doctor of the Church. 
<p>Born of a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, and given a classical education, Athanasius became secretary to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, entered the priesthood and was eventually named bishop himself. His predecessor, Alexander, had been an outspoken critic of a new movement growing in the East—Arianism. </p><p>When Athanasius assumed his role as bishop of Alexandria, he continued the fight against Arianism. At first it seemed that the battle would be easily won and that Arianism would be condemned. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. The Council of Tyre was called and for several reasons that are still unclear, the Emperor Constantine exiled Athanasius to northern Gaul. This was to be the first in a series of travels and exiles reminiscent of the life of St. Paul. </p><p>After Constantine died, his son restored Athanasius as bishop. This lasted only a year, however, for he was deposed once again by a coalition of Arian bishops. Athanasius took his case to Rome, and Pope Julius I called a synod to review the case and other related matters. </p><p>Five times Athanasius was exiled for his defense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism. </p><p>Among his ascetical writings, his<i> Life of St. Anthony</i> (January 17) achieved astonishing popularity and contributed greatly to the establishment of monastic life throughout the Western Christian world.</p> American Catholic Blog Suffering is redemptive in part because it definitively reveals to man that he is not in fact God, and it thereby opens the human person to receive the divine.

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