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Bible Reflections View Comments

Breaking the Silence
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 22, 2013
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The Scriptures for the Fourth Sunday of Advent are filled with great promise but also with risk beyond imagining. They tell stories of crisis and challenge, of calls to conversion and questions that insist on answers. They demand a life lived on the cutting edge of awareness, a life that risks and responds without counting the cost. Life lived to the full, life in God, is filled with promise, with signs and wonders. This is the way of God’s life within us.

When difficult questions have to be answered, when tough choices have to be made, only love can move us in the direction of life-giving choices. At times like these, we need people to walk with us, to reassure us, sometimes just to celebrate with us.

How different the stories of Advent would be if Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph had let fear and anxiety triumph over love, trust, and faith. Would we tell their stories at all? Advent promises the triumph of love over fear, of light over darkness. This love is difficult but so essential; we need to know God is with us.

Joseph tossed and turned in the night, and the questions crowded out all other concerns during the day. What would he do? How would he arrange this? What were his responsibilities? He tries to find as comfortable a solution as possible for everyone concerned.

But the Word of God breaks through this chaos and darkness, and Joseph sees with startling clarity that the answer lies not along the path of least resistance but in the one solution he never considered.

When the spirit breaks into human life, we are confronted with an insistent challenge. We are called to choose life or death. Joseph follows the spirit, chooses life, and receives the assurance of Emmanuel. We, too, are called to let the Word of God break through the confusion in our lives. If we accept its illumination in spite of our fear, our uncertainty, our human weakness, we will know God with us. This is the way the birth of Jesus came about.

Out of the silence of Advent came the promise of the Incarnation. The Word broke into our lives with the startling and dazzling revelation that through Jesus of Nazareth, God loved us in the visible, tangible ways the angels could never understand.

Because we believe this, we’re called to love one another with the same incarnate love. Such love is a challenge to be gentle, to give of one’s self, to enter deeply into reconciliation, to grow and to change—above all to trust.

It is a commitment of trust and faith, of promises made, kept, broken, reconciled. No real love can be born without risks, without vulnerability. Perhaps this is at the heart of our reluctance to believe the Good News. We know that if it’s genuine, it will always have a price.

As Christians we’ve staked our lives on the belief that only through death is there life. Our love is born of a passionate belief in promise, in commitment, and in covenant.

To this love we commit all that we are and all that we can become. When despair overwhelms us, when promises suddenly seem empty, when it seems we’re surrounded by dashed dreams and disappointment, by love betrayed and friendships faltering, prophets break into our lives with the word that God still cares, that love is still possible. To believe this promise demands that we risk once again, that we reach out in love, and that we trust the hand reaching out to us.


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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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