The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 22, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

Back to school with Jesus as the teacher

The journey allows us to learn lessons that transform our lives

September 24, Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What lessons has Jesus taught you on your journey of faith?

2. Which of the three lessons in today's Gospel touches your life most deeply?

3. Whom do you teach?

Twenty questions! Whose feast do we celebrate on May 15th? Who lived from 1651 to 1719? Who was canonized in 1900 and declared patron of teachers in 1950? Who founded the Christian Brothers? The answer: John Baptist de la Salle!

This man gave away his family fortune, was deeply concerned about the poor who were abandoned to ignorance, squalor and degradation, and exercised great administrative ability and powers of leadership. St. John Baptist de La Salle believed that education - a full education that went beyond the three R's to include the teaching of religion -- was essential in moving young people out of poverty and into a life of virtue.

Jesus believed in education. Our Lord was constantly teaching and instructing his disciples who seemed, like many of us, to be rather slow learners. Three lessons or instructions are given in today's Gospel.

1. Before the glory of resurrection and eternal life, suffering and death must be endured. Coming down the mountain and making their way through Galilee, Jesus prepared his followers regarding the nature of true discipleship. It is the surrender of one's life to God's will, even if that means death, death on a cross. No surprise that disciples did not understand and were afraid to question the Lord about this doctrine.

In the book of Wisdom the same lesson is given from a different vantage point. The virtuous man is an irritant to the wicked because within goodness lies an implicit reproach to evil. So the powerful eliminate all who are great in their way, be it the Son of God or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Walter Ciszek or Franz Jagerstatter or Oscar Romero. Like Jesus, these disciples of goodness paid the price of the dedicated and virtuous life.

2. Greatness in God's eyes consists of service and humility. In one of those "humorous" passages of scripture, we see the "human" side of the disciples. Having been instructed about the paschal mystery they immediately get into a big argument about whom, among the glorious twelve, is number one. So Jesus has to sit down, gather the troops together, and once again explain that discipleship is about servanthood. If one is serious about following him, then get to the back of the bus (humility). All this is rather hard on the ego.

The letter of James repeats the lesson. Jealousy and ambition cause disharmony. Rather, we are to put on those "servant" virtues of kindness and consideration. Herein is the lesson of peace and the furthering of the kingdom.

3. Third instruction: hospitality! Just as we welcome the big and little people into our lives, we welcome Jesus and the Father. Hospitality has a universal quality about it. Shun one, you shun all; welcome one, you welcome all. Hospitality is a way of life, not unrelated to courtesy.

The journey through Galilee toward Jerusalem is long and provides plenty of time, not to play games like twenty questions, but to learn lessons that transform our lives.

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

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