The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 15, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

Which way is the right way

Find joy and peace in walking in God's presence, in God's way

September 17, Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time


By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How does God's way differ from our own?

2. How do you put your faith into action?

3. In what ways are you like Peter, unlike him?

Shortly after highway I-43 opened, circling east of Green Bay, there was a fatal accident when a car turned onto the highway going the WRONG WAY. To miss a sign can be the difference between life and death.

Two ways are spoken of in the scriptures today: God's way and the human way. Peter could not believe that the way of suffering, rejection and death was acceptable. When he opposed Jesus' prediction that such a path was going to be his own, Peter protested to such a degree that the Lord had to rebuke him and even assign to him a devilish name.

But are we any better than Peter in our expectations of Christianity? Do we embrace, in baptism, this way of suffering and death, this mystery we call the paschal mystery? Or do we hope for a smooth ride through life, expecting that we will share in Christ's glory without the brutal reality of Calvary?

God's way is a sign of contradiction to the modern world. Losing one's life through totally self-giving is not the philosophy of "The New Yorker." Forgiving those who offend and oppose us, seventy times seven times, appears to be poor psychology. Loving those who hate us, having compassion for all, even criminals, how can anyone embrace such a way of life? "Get behind me, Satan!" still echoes down the centuries and is spoken to all who dispute the way of the cross.

In James' letter we hear about the way of faith. According to this disciple, faith must be of the living sort. Faith does good works otherwise it must be considered dead. We call this a pragmatic faith, one that consistently shows up in kind words, thoughtful deeds, a devout life.

There is another way, another road more traveled. It is the way or road of pretense and loud talk. On this path we do not see others in need as our brothers and sisters. Here the focus is not on a life lived in response to God's call to be glad instruments of peace and love, but rather one of self-acquisition. Here others are wished well but nothing is done to assist them in practical ways. The claim to faith is merely verbal or notional, with little or no substance behind it. It's a cotton-candy faith.

The prophet Isaiah knew God's way. It was one that accepted insult and spittle; it was one that demanded fidelity in the face of apparent abandonment. Isaiah had faith. He believed that God was his vindicator and would come with divine assistance. Thus, his faith was untouched by insult and persecution.

"I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living." Our responsorial psalm sings of walking in God's presence, in God's way. We do not take this journey upon ourselves unaided. The Spirit has been given to us to conform our minds and hearts to that of Jesus. Peter came to know the gifts of that Spirit as he took upon himself a share in the suffering of Christ. In that way he found joy and peace. A hard but necessary lesson.

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



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