The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin Reflection
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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
March 15, 2002 Issue

How much do you know about God?

If we close our lives to the Spirit, we live in a way that is not in God's will

March 17, 2002, Fifth Sunday of Lent

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What have you learned about God this Lent?

2. If we are made to the image and likeness of God, then is our self-knowledge proportionate to our knowledge of God?

3. How does Jesus reveal the mystery of God to you?

Some years ago a second grader at St. Rose Parish in Clintonville asked me the "big" question: "Hey, Father, how much do you know about God?" I launched into a two hours dissertation on the nature of the Trinity and the inner dynamics of the Incarnation. The child fell sound asleep.

During Lent we learn a lot about our God. The scriptures keep pointing out various attributes about a God who creates, redeems and sanctifies us still. On this fifth Sunday of Lent we are again instructed about the mystery of God.

Lesson #1. Our God, made manifest in Jesus, experienced our human condition in powerful and disturbing ways. We see Jesus' reaction to the death of Lazarus. Jesus became deeply troubled. Here is a God who has passion and compassion. And the reason for such a strong response was, as noted by those who observed him, "See how he [Jesus] loved him [Lazarus]."

A loving and compassionate God we have in the person of Jesus. Here is no distant Deity, off in some abstract heaven. Jesus felt the severing of the bonds of friendship that death brings. Jesus cried, wept, mourned the loss of a dear friend.

Lesson #2. Our God sends the Spirit to dwell in us. For some theologians God is primarily transcendent, distant and beyond the reaches of the mind and heart. But for St. Paul, the Spirit of Christ has taken up residence within the human heart. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. And it is a Spirit with power, the power to overcome sin and death.

But St. Paul is a realist. We can close our lives to the gift of the Spirit. Then we fall back into the flesh, living in such a way that our attitudes and decisions are not in conformity with God's will. Instead of loving, we hate; instead of forgiveness, we seek revenge; instead of discipline and order, we are self-indulgent and fragmented.

Lesson #3. God is a promise maker. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God makes a promise regarding the gift of life and land. We have a God who makes a covenant, a strong, lasting relationship with those who God calls his own. Herein is the hope of the people in the Old Testament. It rests upon a God who is a promise maker and as God as a promise keeper (". . . and I will do it, says the Lord.") What will God do? Open our graves, give us new life, bring us to our true homeland, give us a portion of the Spirit.

Does it really matter whether or not we know something about God? Is the question of a second grader truly relevant? What does such knowledge do for us?

The spiritual writer Caryll Houselander responds: "In the degree of the truth of our conception of Him [God], our minds grow broader, deeper, warmer; our hearts grow wiser and kinder; our humor deeper and more tender; we become more aware of the wonder of life; our senses become more sensitive; our sympathies stronger; our capacity for giving and receiving greater; our minds more radiant with a burning light, and the light is the light of Christ" (cf. The Reed of God, 86)

Be wary of entering a second grade class room.

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

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