The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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August 10, 2001 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

Best-seller feeds spiritual hunger

May everything we do find its origin and reach completion through God

August 12, 2001, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What are your favorite prayers?

2. Does the prayer of Jabez speak to your experience?

3. How does prayer affect your daily life?

Seldom does a religious book make the best-seller list in the New York Times. But there currently is one on the list and doing very well. It's Bruce H. Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life.

The author takes a prayer found in the Old Testament, 1 Chronicles 4:10 and gives an extended interpretation of each of the phrases. The prayer reads: "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain."

Our God is a God who does bless us. Abraham is a great example. This blessing was the gift of faith, which totally revolutionized his life and the life of his people. Abraham believed that what God said would come true. Abraham's obedience to God astounded the people and in return for his submission, Abraham and his people were given a precious land. But even more important than the land was the blessing of God's special presence and love for the people.

At first glance the request in the above prayer for enlargement of one's territory gives the impression that the pray-er is seeking more more possessions. Rather, the interpretation is that God might use us to expand the divine rule here on earth. The request is for more responsibility in furthering the kingdom. It is a step ahead of today's Gospel, which emphasizes a waiting upon the Lord to come. Here, one is seeking to become an instrument through which God can act.

The third part of the prayer of Jabez is hope for God's presence. If we walk together with the Lord, all of life takes on a new quality. With the Lord at our side the works of faith and justice will truly lead to salvation. In the Lord's absence we feel endangered and lack courage.

The final section of the prayer from Chronicles is one of great realism. Evil is a fact. Sometimes we are the recipients of it; sometimes we are its perpetrators. The request here is for one of protection for others and ourselves. It fits in well with the "Our Father" where we are instructed by Jesus himself to pray that we be not led into temptation and that we might be delivered from evil. And, of course, once evil enters into the human heart, much pain and hurt is the result.

Why is it that millions and millions of people are buying this book? Is it its simplicity? Is it its practical nature? Is it that the spiritual hunger within our world is finally be recognized and addressed?

It is good to have prayers that are foundational to our spiritual lives. For some people it is the "Our Father." For others, the "Memorare" has sustained them for many years or the prayer of St. Francis, sic., "Instrument of Thy Peace." Years ago Msgr. Maufort taught us seminarians a prayer in Latin which became a favorite of mine. Here is the translation:

Father, may everything we do begin with your inspiration and continue with your saving help. Let our work always find its origin in you and through you reach completion. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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

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