Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Align your plans with the will of God
We must all walk the path of love, forgiveness and compassion
September 9, 2001, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What does discipleship demand of you?
2. How has your life changed in the last five years because of your faith?
3. What obstacles tend to diminish your life of faith?
St. Paul followed Christ. More, he makes the claim that his former way of life - a life of tyrannical righteousness - had given way to such an extent that Christ now lived and worked through him. Paul embraced the Gospel demands of radical detachment, bore his cross of imprisonment with courage, challenged the Christian community to love in peace.
What does it mean to follow Christ, to be a disciple of Jesus in our contemporary world? Are their certain requirements, similar to those of a doctor or teacher that certify that we merit the title Christian?
Clearly, one requirement is the willingness to carry our cross. For some this may involve illness of mind or body. For others, a failed relationship or some political or economic misfortune. For still others, bearing the cross may be a struggle with the meaning of existence.
St. Paul shares a double cross in today's reading. Imprisonment meant that he was not free to continue his nomadic preaching ministry. A second cross dealt with the Christian community and whether or not they would treat a fellow companion with hospitality.
A second requirement of Christianity is that we align our goals with the will of God. The first reading raises the question of who can know the Lord's intent, who can be the Lord's guidance counselor. A valid question. But with the coming of Jesus we know God's plan: love, forgiveness, compassion. This is THE way, the path we must all walk if we are to be disciples of the Lord.
Our culture presents others roads. Instead of love and concern, we can yield to the temptation of apathy and indifference. Rejecting the path of compassion, we can harden our hearts and refuse to hear the cry of the poor. Forgiveness (seventy times seven times) is a dead end for those who demand revenge and retribution. Discipleship is costly. It involves radical conversion of mind and heart.
And yet a third requirement of discipleship: faith. This grace is essential if we are to live in the full truth of our being. Faith opens us up to a deep awareness and radical conviction that we are God's beloved daughters and sons, despite our weakness and sin. Faith keeps reminding us that God is Love and that nothing can separate us from this grace. Asking the Lord to increase our faith is wise counsel.
Faith does have obstacles. Doubts cast a darkness over the mind and heart. Does God really care for us? Are our sins truly forgiven and forgotten? Then there is a pervasive agnosticism that holds that we cannot know - that truth is unattainable. This can lead to paralysis of the will. Faith's third impediment is stubbornness. We resent change and insist that our thoughts and our ways are not in need of redemption. We need the workings of the Holy Spirit to overcome these blocks and to increase our faith.
Discipleship is an invitation and an imperative. To be a companion of Jesus, to enjoy the friendship of God (amacitia Dei), is a grace beyond measure. Surely we are willing to pay the price: the gift of our will in the doing of God's will. Two results are guaranteed: peace and joy.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)