Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
God is the source of all life and holiness
We can only achieve justice through the power of Jesus' Spirit
December 9, 2001, Second Sunday of Advent
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. Who are the reformers in your life?
2. Is universal peace possible?
3. How does God use your gifts and weaknesses in building the kingdom?
Henry Agard Wallace (1888-1965), Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a controversial political figure. Some commentators considered him a mystic and a prophet, while others thought Wallace to be an oddball and a dreamer.
One thing is clear: Wallace stressed the dignity of every human person, the value of freedom and responsibility, the need for worldwide cooperation. His development of hybrid corn, which increased corn production around the world, saved hundreds of thousands of lives. In light of the current world situation, many of his thoughts qualify him to be a true prophet.
John the Baptist was a reformer and a mystic. His vision was similar in nature to that of Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet. Isaiah knew that without outside help (call it grace, call it the gift of the Holy Spirit), we are doomed to fail. Self-sufficiency, a belief in education and social progress alone, cannot achieve God's plan that all people live in harmony and peace. Human nature is too blind and weak to pull it off. Isaiah was keenly aware of the presence of sin and called for the renewal not only of the individual but of society as well.
St. Paul is of the same conviction. God is the source of all patience and encouragement, of all life and holiness. It is only through the power of Jesus' Spirit that we can live in community and achieve justice. We have high hopes and a justified optimism because our God is faithful and will achieve the divine purpose of perfect harmony. On our part, we are to learn acceptance -- acceptance of self and others in all our giftedness and weakness. By doing this we prepare the Lord's way, making straight his path. Here is one of the major themes for our Advent season: disposing ourselves and one another to be open to the mystery of our incarnate God.
John the Baptist appeared to many as an oddball and a dreamer. Eating grasshoppers is somewhat strange, as is the wearing of a garment of camel's hair. Throw into the mix a rather testy vocabulary -- "You brood of vipers!" -- and it is not surprising that his name was removed from the local social register. The Baptist received few invitations to Christmas parties. But his name is engraved in Church history. It is there because this prophet spoke the truth and gave his life in the cause of building God's kingdom. He pointed out who Jesus was, the one who baptized in fire and the Holy Spirit. And once Jesus appeared, John got out of the way.
It is not wise to mix politics and religion, to even hint that there might be some similarity between a Henry A. Wallace and a John the Baptist, between Ghandi and Jesus, between Dorothy Day and St. Catherine of Sienna. Better not go down that road. But since I have already done that let me make one more comment.
God uses all kinds of strange instruments in the work of salvation: eccentric politicians, reductionistic scientists, reluctant saints, arrogant executives, pompous clergy, ill-informed teachers. In fact, God may even use you and me.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)