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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
February 15, 2002 Issue

Put on the heart and mind of Jesus

Embrace the gift of the Holy Spirit and be made new during Lent

Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. Why has the virtue of obedience fallen on such hard times?

2. What are the fruits of obedience?

3. What contemporary temptations draw us east of Eden?

February 17, 2002, First Sunday of Lent

By Bishop Robert Morneau

All of us live east of Eden. Within the human condition there is major distortion and rupture of relationships; all, the result of sin. Whether we speak of original or actual sin, something is drastically wrong and it can all be traced back to disobedience: a turning away from God's will.

As we enter the season of Lent we hear again the call to repentance and to a life of obedience. Given a strong cultural propensity toward autonomy and an understanding of freedom as license, we find adherence to authority somewhat abhorrent. Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road," Frank Sinatra's "My Way," fill the airwaves and infiltrate the breath that God breathed into us. We struggle to give our allegiance to life rather than death, to light rather than darkness, to love rather than indifference.

Jesus was not immune to these temptations. In the deserts he had to wrestle with the demons: the demon of magic, the demon of power and possession, the demon of prestige. There was no tree in the middle of the desert but there was choice. Our limited and finite imagination falter before what must have transpired in the heart and mind of Jesus.

St. Paul, in technical and convoluted language, writes to the Romans about Adam's sin of disobedience and Jesus' reversal of that downward spiral. The key to the Christian life is to put on the mind and heart of Jesus, to be faithful to the covenant and to resist the idols that would pull us off course. St. Paul could speak boldly because he knew, in a highly personal way, what the obedience of Christ meant for him: salvation and justification. Through the cross, Jesus crucified, Paul understood the mystery of God's love and the power of divine mercy.

In the Genesis story, many of us can identify with the voices that take us away from God's will. Who of us has not heard those whispers that a half-truth is all that bad, or the words of unkindness do not hurt all that much, or that the injustices of the world are not my responsibility? Everyone is tempted to "do their own thing" at the expense of others. Everyone is called to make a choice, as Moses told his people, a choice of life or death.

Some weeks ago I took in "The Lord of the Rings" film. Actually, it was "The Fellowship of the Rings," the first of the series. This movie, although filled with too many battles for my blood, had as one of its themes, temptation. There was a special ring with magic power. Even the good people, the Hobbits, were tempted at times to use it for their own power and gain. Life and death was in the balance. How would they use their freedom?

The ring God has given to us is our freedom. And with the gift comes responsibility. What we do or don't do is of our own making. But there is more to the picture. God has also given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we embrace this gift and allow the Spirit to transform us this Lent, all will be made new.

Lent is a liturgical season that prepares us for the great Easter mysteries: the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. Through Jesus' obedience to death, yes, death on the cross, our salvation is possible. May we wear our ring well and use it for the building of the Kingdom.

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

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