The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 15, 2001 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

Four stages in our faith journey

Discipleship, friendship, Egypt and the desert are always with us

June 17, Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What place does the Eucharist play in your life?

2. How do you respond to the four stages of the Christian journey?

3. What is the difference between discipleship and friendship?

In early May, Fr. Byron Haaland, SCJ, a Sacred Heart priest working at St. Joseph Retreat House in Bailey's Harbor, gave a day of recollection to the administrative council of the diocese. As a participant I was refreshed and enlightened by Fr. Haaland's presentations.

In one conference he spoke of our faith journey in terms of the four stages: Egypt - our entanglement with sin; the desert - a time and place of struggle and discipline; discipleship - commitment to follow the Lord Jesus; friendship - the invitation to intimacy with Jesus.

On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we do well to reflect on our Eucharistic life. Every time we celebrate Mass we once again experience and hopefully deepen our commitment to our Christian way of life. In the celebration all four stages call for our attention.

Egypt! The penitential rite is the time in which we face the dark side of our life. Just as Moses reminded the people that Egypt was a land of slavery for them, so we are reminded at Mass that sin enslaves and injures our freedom. We begin every Mass by asking for God's forgiveness and mercy. We do this both for our world and ourselves. Throughout our entire life we realize that we are always undergoing conversion.

The Desert! Again it was Moses who had the task of reminding his people that their journey through the desert was a time of struggle and temptation. Some hard questions had to be answered: were they committed to the Lord or to the fleshpots of Egypt? Were they willing to keep the Lord's commandments? This desert experience - waterless, lacking in food and comfort - puts all of us to the test. We have to make a choice: return to our former way of life of darkness or plod on toward the hoped for promise land. The scriptures at Mass emphasize the need to endure affliction and put our trust in the Lord.

Discipleship! In the offertory of Mass we bring forth the gifts of bread and wine as well as our financial offering as a symbol of our self-donation. We join ourselves to Jesus on the altar in his sacrificial self-giving. Discipleship is not just a matter of giving things - time, talent, treasure - to God, rather it is offering of one's mind and heart. The cup of blessing and the bread given and broken are the body and blood of Christ. And we are part of the Mystical Body.

Friendship! In celebrating Mass we are called beyond discipleship into the intimacy and bonding of friendship. Jesus, the living bread, comes down from heaven, and seeks a relationship of mutuality and deep communication. In communion we experience the incredible love of God that is the ground of friendship. It is because of this blessed communion that we are promised life everlasting.

Life is seldom lived in a straight line. These Christian journey stages are always with us . They are still parts of us in Egypt and in the desert just as there are segments in our life filled with commitment and friendship. So be it. Life has been such. Our trust is not in our institutions or ourselves but in the person of Jesus, given to us in word and sacrament.

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

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