The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 9, 2001 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

Jesus gives us the graces we need

God seeks commitment of our hearts, bodies and energies

February 10-11, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. Which beatitude has special meaning for you?

2. Are there any toys that distance you from the kingdom?

3. How do you keep Jesus in focus?

Some time ago some friends and I read the classic Introduction to the Devout Life written by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622). He was a teacher and bishop who knew persecution. He was someone who, as a follower of Jesus, taught in a simple and direct style the way to the kingdom. The beatitudes shaped St. Francis de Sales' mind and heart, indeed his writings. Here are five spiritual m & m's that I discovered and nibble on from time to time.

"Do like the bee, who never quits a flower so long as they can extract any honey from it" (143). The beatitudes are graced, wild flowers telling us the secrets of blessedness as seen by Jesus: poverty, hunger, tears, insults. Strange teaching here. The exact opposite - lots of money, constant satisfaction, approval of others, a life free of suffering - is the message of the culture. The bees have much to teach us in staying with the Lord's instructions until we assimilate divine wisdom and understanding.

". . . the petty toys of rank, honor and address" (130). Jesus offers several "woes" which warn against trusting in those things that cannot satisfy your deepest spiritual longings. Too easily the tinsel and toys of life hold us captive. Cotton candy is fun to nibble on at the county fair but it doesn't supply much energy for dealing with the large reality we call life.

"Obedience consecrates our heart; chastity, our bodies; and poverty, our means to the love and service of God" (149). Besides instructing the disciples and the crowds (& us), Jesus gives us the graces we need - obedience, chastity, poverty - to live the essence of the Gospel life. But we must respond. God longs for a total commitment of our hearts, bodies, and energies in the service of the kingdom. The Gospel message is very demanding and inclusive.

"Keep yourself always near to Jesus Christ crucified" (156). When a person embraces the beatitudes as a way of life, one is thereby positioning himself/herself close to the suffering Lord. St. Paul did this. Paul had a double focus: one eye on Jesus crucified, the other on Christ risen from the dead. Paul claimed that our faith is in vain unless we believe in the resurrection. It is hope and trust in God revealed in Jesus that makes us like trees planted near a living stream.

"Sing spiritual canticles" (249). In-between the blessed are they . . . and the "woes" of the Gospel is that powerful refrain: "Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!" Song and dance express the joy that permeates the soul. This joy arises from duty done, from love tasted, from companionship with the Lord that will never end. Indeed, how can we keep from singing.

St. Francis de Sales maintained that the life of true devotion is a life of love, a life in which we diligently, frequently and readily do what the Lord asks of us. Here is beatitude in all its fullness.

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

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