Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
Do you emulate the qualities of God?
In the image of God, we must be compassionate to the works of the Lord
November 4, 2001, Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What is your understanding of God?
2. Which quality of God is most challenging to you?
3. How has your knowledge of God (theology) grown in the last five years?
The question of theology ("the science and study of God") seems to be a concern for those off in the seminary or in some academic settings. For those of us caught in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, knowledge of the nature of God appears terribly remote and not especially urgent.
Yet! Yet! If we are made to the image and likeness of God, then knowledge of God is essential to our own self-understanding. Not to know God means that we don't know who we are.
What do the scriptures of today tell us of God (and, therefore, of us)? In the book of Wisdom we are given an image of the immensity of God. The universe, compared to God, is but a grain of sand. Further, God is a God of mercy, someone who loves all things and loathes nothing made, who preserves and sustains all things, who is a lover of souls. Quite a portrait here: a loving, merciful, sustaining, benevolent, immense Deity, a God who is worthy of praise and thanksgiving.
We look into the mirror. Do we emulate this God? Are we merciful when someone injures our property? Are we big-hearted, immense in our affection for others? Do we sustain relationships and protect the vulnerable? God's word is a constant challenge in our lives.
The responsorial psalm adds several other qualities to the portrait of our God and several more challenges to us regarding our self-image: "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works."
A tough examination of conscience here: Are we gracious to the foreigner and stranger, as well as to the immediate members of our family? Are we slow to fly off the handle, counting ten and beyond, controlling our tempers? Are we people filled with that "great kindness" that marks the Christian who truly follows the Gospel? Are we compassionate or hard-hearted toward the mystery of creation, toward all the works of the Lord?
It is in the Gospel that our God is made visible in Jesus. Here we find out that our God does indeed invite himself to the house of a sinner. In Jesus we see a God of infinite mercy and love, one who longs that no one be lost.
Various writers speak about the importance of how we image our God and what happens when our knowledge is lacking or distorted.
"In the degree of the falseness of our conception of God, we restrict and narrow our interests and sympathies; we grow in intolerance or in a flabbiness which turns to a rot of sweetness like a diabetes of the soul." (Caryll Houselander)
"Much of the history of early Christian thought is the record of efforts to domesticate the alien God of Gethesemane and Calvary, the God who Paul and Ignatius, men very close to the edges of human experience, had so joyfully embraced." (Rowan Williams)
"Now the experience of God. . . is, I believe, in the long run always a vocational experience. It always impels us to some sort of service: always awakens an energetic love. It never leaves the self where it found it." (Evelyn Underhill)
"My God is not in the least meticulous. . ." (St. Teresa of Avila).
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)