The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 30, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

How do we live out God's design

God has in store for us the gift of everlasting peace and joy

July 2, Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What does poverty of spirit mean for you?

2. What is level of truth in God's providence?

3. How is it that poverty makes us rich; that richness can make us truly indigent?

What movies have you watched more than once? What vacation spots would you return to time and time again? What books in your library need rereading?

Sometimes a good movie, a beautiful vacation spot, a well-written book contain so much meaning and beauty that several visits have to be made to extract and experience its wealth. One such book for me is Poverty of Spirit written by Johannes Metz (New York: Paulist Press, 1968, 53 pp.). Be forewarned - a turgid but insightful book.

The major theme in Poverty of Spirit is how do we "become human," what is the process by which we live out God's design in our lives? Metz states: ". . . the free process of becoming human unfolds as a process of service." The biblical term for this is obedience and, of course, Jesus is our mentor and model of obedience, even unto death. Jesus came as one who serves and that ministry would demand all his energy, his very life.

Jesus faced the mystery of suffering and death head on, long before that fatal day on Calvary. In today's Gospel he travels to the house of Jairus whose daughter is critically ill, indeed, thought dead. In the face of these human mysteries Jesus urges trust and faith. For those who believe not even illness and mortality can end life. God has in store for us the gift of everlasting peace and joy.

But there is much in our lives that resists this poverty, this acceptance of our human condition. St. Paul knew this well as he urged the Corinthians to be rich, not in a materialistic way, but rich in faith, discourse, knowledge, total concern, love. Herein lies real wealth, one that cannot be lost or corroded. St. Paul realized through experience that Jesus, though divine, emptied himself of this divinity to become one of us. Now all of us have become rich through his self-emptying poverty.

Johannes Metz maintains that we have proof of God's fidelity, namely, the poverty of the cross. This is the sacrament of poverty of spirit. It is through this full obedience to the human condition that we gain authentic humanness. Other things will not do it: pleasure, security, power, possessions.

Jairus, the day after his daughter was restored to health and life, must have pondered deeply the person who came to his house, this person of Jesus. The words he read as an official in the synagogue from the book of Wisdom must have haunted him: "God did not make death nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living . . . God formed man to be imperishable." A new and deeper trust must have quelled Jairus' heart and a new call to poverty of spirit probably entered his soul. He knew that all life and all holiness come from our relationship with God.

Our responsorial psalm says it all: "I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me." Jairus' daughter knew that, St. Paul experienced that, Peter, James and John saw it. Jesus witnessed God's saving power and elicited praise and thanksgiving. Jesus demonstrated in word and deed this central truth: "We become poor by total self-abandonment and full commitment to others." (Metz)

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)

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