Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Separate the good fruit from the rotten
The Holy Spirit anoints us with light to see and energy to do God's will
February 25, Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What role does the Holy Spirit play in your decision making
2. What gift has God given you? Which ones has he taken away?
3. What good fruit can you bear this week?
The old threshing machines were a marvel to behold. Once a year
they arrived at a farm with a crew of helpers to separate the
grain from the chaff.
God's Word for this Sunday is all about threshing, sorting,
testing. Sirach speaks about the sieve and human speech; St. Paul
about corruptibility and incorruptibility; Jesus about good and
rotten fruit. There is an ongoing need to discern and separate
out good from evil, truth from falsity, beauty from what is ugly.
The ultimate test is in the bearing of good fruit, an authentic
life of discipleship.
This adventure of threshing and sorting out lies at the heart of
a recent novel by Mark Salzman, Lying Awake (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 2000). It's a story of a Carmelite sister who has strange
and supposedly mystical visions, phenomena which have various
interpretations. Was this "seeing of God" sheer grace, the work
of the Holy Spirit, or did these experiences arise from Sister
John of the Cross' epileptic disorder which had the power to
alter her world consciousness?
A decision had to be made. Would she undergo surgery to remove
the tumor causing the epileptic seizure and violent headache or
would she refuse treatment so as to not close the door on these
momentary visions which caused unbelievable ecstasy?
Several passages tell of her struggle. "Epilepsy was particularly
feared because of its reputation for producing compelling - but
false - visions. Doctors and clergy alike had referred to the
disease for centuries as 'holy madness.'" (67) Sometimes it can
happen that an illness or a character flaw can open up new
perspectives on God's presence. Sometimes it is simply an illness
and character defect. The test will always be in good fruits, a
deepening of one's Christian life.
When Sister John of the Cross attempted to discern God's will
after a grace she had received was gone, she received this
advice from a friend: "God must think you did enough with that
gift. Now he wants you to do something else." (174)
Here is another way of living out discipleship. When one
relationship or ministry ends, then we must move on and be open
to new grace. God "lurks" around the next corner, waiting there
to offer us yet another opportunity to live the life of grace.
Crying over spilled milk is a loss of time and energy.
A third and final example of Sister John's struggle to discern
and sort out the movements of her heart. "What if I have it all
upside down? What if I am the one who knows nothing of God, and
the people in the world are actually interceding on my behalf
with their ordinary, daily struggles? (127) No small wonder that
someone committed to contemplative life would lie awake with such
a huge question racing through the heart. The beauty of this
story (and ours) is the willingness not to run away from the big
At times we all lie awake wondering what God wants us to do. We
need to invoke the Holy Spirit to anoint us with light to see and
energy to do God's will. Bearing good fruit, fruit that will
last, depends upon our union with the Lord, our true Vine.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)