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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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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