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Bible Reflections View Comments

Our Encounters With the Divine
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 9, 2012
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Prophets don’t come into our lives every day, and they don’t always make the sort of impression that the biblical prophets must have made. But if we begin to understand how they experienced God, we might begin to see that even we ourselves have moments of prophetic insight.

Prophets are gifted with an intense personal awareness of God’s love for his people. Their call both inspires and compels them to preach this word to those who will listen—and to those who close their ears. From the time a prophet hears the Word of God, the burning desire is to find the words that will express this eternal message to the people of one time and place.

The Word of God was spoken to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert. He prepared himself not through the temple observances of his father the priest but through desert fasts and prayers. He came out of the desert preaching reform and conversion, telling all that the kingdom of God was at hand. Though his message might have seemed strange and radical to the people who heard him, it was much the same as the message preached by the great Hebrew prophets.

One of these prophets, Baruch, tried to stir the people out of their spiritual lethargy during their long exile in Babylon. He wanted them to live beyond their mourning, their passive longing for the old ways, the old days, their return to their homeland. He told them the Lord was near, the Lord was among them, the Lord would save them. Baruch encouraged the people on the strength of the covenant promise, the promise that had formed them and held them together as a people.

John the Baptist, of whom Jesus spoke of as the greatest of the prophets, desired nothing more than to tell people of the love of God. The call to be a prophet makes demands, asking one to risk everything for the Word. Through his long days and nights in the desert, John must have known the experience of being alone with only the whisper of God’s Word in his heart.

When John found his message, he clung to it: “Prepare the way of the Lord. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” That message still rings true today. We know that in our world, in our families, in our own lives, the Good News of God’s love often gets lost. We need to find ways to return to that word again and again. We need to find ways to share it with our loved ones. We need to let people know love is stronger than fear. We need to hold fast to our belief that God cares for our world, all appearances to the contrary.

We might ask what mighty prophets like Baruch and John the Baptist have to do with our lives today. We find the answer in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. His unabashed love for his community and his joy in the way they have responded to God’s Word comes through in every word. We need to be reminded to value the things that really matter—love, faith, justice, compassion. Paul’s prayer for his community becomes ours today: “My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience.”

The Lord is in our midst. We are called to share our stories of our encounters with the divine in our daily lives. We might think we’re voices crying in the wilderness. We might be afraid people will call us foolish. But in our day, as in John’s, the kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand.


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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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