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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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Philip and James: 
		<b>James, Son of Alphaeus:</b> We know nothing of this man except his name, and of course the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel, his Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, “brother” of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater. 
<p><b>Philip:</b> Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the “one about whom Moses wrote” (John 1:45). </p><p>Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. St. John comments, “[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do” (John 6:6). Philip answered, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]” (John 6:7). </p><p>John’s story is not a put-down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift. </p><p>On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’ voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way...If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9a). </p><p>Possibly because Philip bore a Greek name or because he was thought to be close to Jesus, some Gentile proselytes came to him and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip went to Andrew, and Andrew went to Jesus. Jesus’ reply in John’s Gospel is indirect; Jesus says that now his “hour” has come, that in a short time he will give his life for Jew and Gentile alike.</p> American Catholic Blog Only in human weakness do many of us begin to rely on God and explicitly repudiate our own divine ambitions. Every pain alerts us to the fact that we are not the Almighty.

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