The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 2, 2001 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

Dealing with power, possession, prestige

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to resist temptations

March 4, First Sunday of Lent

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What is your greatest temptation?

2. How do we become "tempters" of others?

3. What does "And lead us not into temptation" mean to you?

Part of the human condition is temptation. Adam and Eve dealt with it in Eden's garden and were not successful. Jesus dealt with temptation in the desert and did not yield. All of us, at home and work, in play or illness face those stirrings, impulses, leanings that take us away from God's presence and love.

Jesus dealt with the big three: power, possession, prestige. Through fasting and prayer his fidelity to the Father's will did not falter. With clarity of vision only one thing mattered: God's reign in the human heart. The seduction of power, the enticement of possessions and the lure of prestige could not trap his heart.

What are some of the temptations of our twenty-first century?

Near the top of the list is AUTONOMY. As Mary Pipher writes in her study of the elderly in Another Country, "Autonomy is king." We are tempted to go it alone living in the illusion that we are handsomely independent. What could be further from the truth? The briefest consciousness of the air around us highlights our utter dependency upon such natural resources as air and water to say nothing of our supreme dependence upon God.

Moses, in our first reading, reminds his people that it was God who "gave us the land flowing with milk and honey." Yet the people forgot about the generosity of God and slid into a false autonomy. This probably caused Moses to pull out his hair making him the first bald prophet in history.

A second temptation in our times is a form of TOLERANCE that refuses to embrace any sort of judgment. Lacking standards, anything goes. As long as a person is sincere, that's all that matters. Jesus did not tolerate the Pharisees' hypocrisy nor Peter's judgments based merely on human standards. Toleration of abortion in the name of choice highlights how far tolerance is from Gospel values. The flip side is no less acceptable: it is judgmentalism based, not on intrinsic human and Gospel values, but on mere customs or narrow traditions.

A third seduction, not unlike one of those Jesus faced in the desert, is the temptation of the "now only." This is not the graced experience of the sacrament of the moment wherein we recognize and respond to God's presence in the sunrise, the invitation to the cross, the kindness unexpected. Rather, we are tempted to act as if "this is it," letting the future be damned. St. Paul and Moses and Jesus keep reminding us that the past, present and future are all important on our pilgrim journey.

It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we will be able to resist the kingship of autonomy, the spinelessness of exaggerated tolerance, the unreality of immediacy. The same Spirit that led Jesus into the desert and protected him there is the Spirit given to us by the risen Lord. We have nothing to fear.

During the Eucharistic prayer we pray together the "Our Father." During this prayer given by Jesus we request: "Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil." When prayed with sincerity and from the heart, our request will be granted.

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

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