Understanding God’s designs

By | September 12, 2011

Intellectual history is the attempt to trace the throught patterns of those significant individuals who shape cultures and institutions. This is no easy enterprise. In fact, it is difficult to even understand our own thought patterns, what we are thinking and why.

Old Isaiah forcefully reminds us that God’s thoughts and God’s ways are not our own. His primary example is God’s generosity in forgiving. By contrast, the prophet confronts the scoundrel and the wicked by challenging them to change their way of living and their way of thinking. Isaiah was an intellectual historian.

What is God thinking? Generosity and forgiveness! The Gospel highlights the first. At the end of the day, the landowner gives to all the workers, regardless of the time they punched in, the same amount. Envy stirred in the hearts of those who bore the heat of the whole day. We might even side with them in that this appears to be unjust. Yet, God’s generosity will not be short-circuited by restrictive human justice.

St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a call to conduct ourselves in a way that honors and is worthy of the Gospel. Again, we are back to God’s thoughts and designs. Paul experienced the forgiveness and mercy of Christ on his journey to Damascus. That touchstone experience changed his life forever. Incredibly, God had forgiven him and transformed Paul’s mind and heart. His life now was one with Christ — thinking, feeling and living as a disciple. Thus this apostle to the gentiles was torn between continuing his mission or departing from this life to be with Christ for eternity.

The intellectual story of St. Paul is a model for all of us. While always in the process of conversation, Paul strove every day to put on the mind and heart of his savior and friend, the Lord Jesus. At times these thoughts and ways were at odds with Christ’s; at times, he was at oneness with the divine design.

What is our challenge? To seek the Lord, who is indeed near, to call upon the Lord in prayer and sacrifice. Our pilgrimage into discipleship is a long, arduous journey, but we do not travel alone. The Scriptures and our rich tradition continually expose God’s thoughts and ways. Companions challenge us when we wander, affirm us when we are on the straight and narrow. It is in the community, in the church, that we not only understand God’s intellectual history, but begin to live it.

Questions for reflection

1. What do you know about God’s thoughts and ways?

2. Share with someone your own intellectual history.

3. Why are generosity and forgiveness so central to God?

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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