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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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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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