The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 8, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

Feel good again by giving to others

Receive joy through the sharing of your time, talent and treasure

December 17, Third Sunday of Advent

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. In what sense are joy and peace by-products of love?

2. Are we a joyful Christian community?

3. When was the last time you danced for joy?

Several years ago the United Way selected as its theme something like: "Feel good again. Give!"

There is a by-product that fills our spirit when we are generous in sharing our time, talent and treasure with others. That by-product is joy. There is an emotional response when we reach out to others who are in need and assist them on the journey. The motive for giving ought to be love, which has as its by-product the feeling of joy.

Jesus gave of himself. Herein is the meaning of Eucharist: his body and blood given for us. Thus the Eucharist, though flowing out of supreme sacrifice, is also characterized as a joyful celebration. In the sacrament we experience time and time again God's extravagant love for us and come to know the Lord's peace and joy.

The prophet Zephaniah invites his people to shout for joy, to exult and to dance. Why? "The Lord your God is in your midst." This is the God who renewed the people through the prophet's message; this is the same God who comes to us today in word and sacrament. Once we experience divine love fear no longer has dominion over our lives.

St. Paul invites his fellow Christians of Philippi to be happy because the Lord is near. Indeed, for Paul, the Lord dwells within him. What the apostle longed for was that the same peace and joy that he knew in Jesus might guard and protect the hearts and thoughts of all the Philippians. This love of Christ chases away anxieties and worries.

Something was missing in the lives of the crowds, tax collector and soldier who came to John seeking advice as to what they might do to make their lives meaningful. Why were they missing the joy spoken of by Zephaniah and the happiness that Paul urged upon his people? John's answer was clear and direct: share, be just, be respectful.

Of course, John was looking in the direction of Jesus. His cousin was the Good News of God's love made visible, incarnate. It would be the fire of the Holy Spirit that would expose the soldier, the tax collector, the priests, the prophets, all moms and dads to respond to others in a loving, just and respectful manner.

Our culture, for all its possessions and power, does not seem to be characterized by a great deal of joy. Happiness seems in short supply. So much fear, so many worries, high anxieties wherever we look. How can we feel good again?

A life of stewardship might be an answer. Steward-disciples see God as the origin of all life and freedom. They strive to receive God's gifts gratefully, nurture them responsibly, and share God's blessings justly and charitably. It is most difficult to find a person of joy and happiness who is not also a steward.

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

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