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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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