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Bible Reflections View Comments

God Speaks in Unlikely Ways
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013
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In today’s Gospel, Jesus has been speaking to the people in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. While they are initially awed by his proclamation of the word, they begin to resent what they see as a local boy getting too important for his own good—or their comfort. It was one thing when he was doing impressive deeds in Capernaum. But now he comes home to Nazareth and tells them that the status quo is going to change. He has read to them the passage in which the prophet Isaiah says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” They wait for him to interpret this passage for them in the way of the rabbis, and instead he says, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The people of Nazareth think they know all there is to know about this Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. How could he possibly be the fulfillment of the words of one of their greatest prophets? And then he tells them that it’s not about the hometown crowd at all. It’s about salvation being extended to all the nations.

We might talk about living in a global village in the twenty-first century. But really we can be as insular as any first-century village in Palestine. We have our families, our groups of friends, our coworkers, our fellow parishioners. We surround ourselves with the people who are like us, whatever that might mean.

We’re quick to judge other people: by appearance, by background, by familiarity, by behavior. Too often we dismiss them because they don’t meet some actual or imagined standard. We don’t even see the homeless person we pass each day on the way to work, the troubled student, the perpetually complaining coworker.

The people we think we know best are often the hardest to take seriously —an elderly parent, a confused teenager, an ambitious and upwardly mobile young adult. We put people into compartments so that we know how to respond without thinking.

The danger in this is that we can very easily miss the voice of God speaking through unlikely prophets. Often the greatest obstacle to moving forward, whether at school, at work, or in our families, is an inability or unwillingness to recognize that the people around us can change. And then we have to wrestle with the fact that they might have something to say that will challenge us to change our own lives.

St. Paul reminds us that love is more important than any other gift or talent we may possess. He says, “And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Whether we’re speaking or listening, we need to do it with love, with openness, with humility. We need to learn not to react out of anger and frustration.

Jesus knows his message, he knows his call. But he also knows that he will not always be accepted by his audience. He says what he has come to say and then he passes through their midst and away. It’s left to them to decide whether they’re going to hear and act on his words.

God can speak to us through anyone at any time. Will we listen? Will we be open to hearing God’s message? And perhaps most important of all, how will we respond?


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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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