There are certain passages in literature, in political discourse, in sacred Scripture that merit our loving attention. These words express a wisdom that nourishes our hungry souls. We might even begin a special file in which to tuck them away.
From literature! In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” we are given an insight into the nature of prayer: “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thought never to heaven go” (Hamlet III, iii, 100-103). There is always a danger of babble in prayer, just saying words without reflection or reverence. Vain repetition is a constant danger.
From political discourse! On Nov. 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was dedicating a cemetery on the field where so many Civil War soldiers had fallen. Here is but one sentence: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” Lincoln was wrong. The world has noted the sacrifice at Gettysburg and will not forget his famous address.
From Sacred Scripture! St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, wrote to the Corinthians about a spiritual experience: “As to the extraordinary revelations, in order that I might not be conceited I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and keep me from getting proud” ( 2 Cor 12:7). We know of St. Paul’s Damascus experience. Paul (then Saul) heard Jesus ask him why he was persecuting the Christian community. That experience transformed Paul’s life.
We might also ponder Ezekiel’s message. The prophet was given the difficult task of addressing a rebellious people who were “obstinate of heart” and “hard of face.” Not only is Ezekiel speaking to the people of his day, he is also addressing each one of us. What is the condition of our heart? Is it a heart of flesh or a heart of stone? This is a question of compassion. And as to our countenance, do we have a smile and soft eyes for others, or do we live with a perpetual frown and insensitive eyes? The prophet never leaves us alone in questioning our spiritual state.
In the Gospel we have Jesus, the prophet, who initially amazed the people with his wisdom, but later, finding Jesus “too much for them,” refused to believe in him. The passage that merits our attention here is the distress in Jesus when he realized the people’s lack of faith. We do well to ponder the degree of our faith and the effect of Jesus’ wisdom on our daily life.
What passages are in your file that nourish your soul?
Bishop Morneau, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Green Bay Diocese, serves as sacramental minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Green Bay.