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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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