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
October 18, 2002 Issue

Discover to whom we all belong

By living Gospel values, we demonstrate that we are genuine disciples

October 20, 2002 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How important is a sense of belonging in your life?

2. To whom do you belong?

3. How do you stay connected with the significant people in your life?

A line I heard several years ago in a public lecture got my attention: "Find out what belongs to whom, and give it back!" I quickly ran to my bookshelf and found four books that were not mine. By nightfall they were in the possession of their owners.

Jesus responded to the ploy of entrapment by the Pharisees by making it clear that certain things belong to the State and certain things to God. Good citizenship means that we pay our taxes to support the common good be it our schools, roads, libraries, or social security. Good Christianity means that we give to God our obedience and remain faithful to the kingdom. We do have joint citizenship both here on earth and in heaven. It's good to know which coinage is which.

St. Paul had clarity about what belongs to whom. In no uncertain terms he begins his letter to the Thessalonians with a reminder: ". . .[you] belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." We are God's possession, a God who gives us life and liberty, faith and family, a God who is the origin of all good things. That makes us trustees of those many gifts. Again St. Paul points out three of these gifts that the Thessalonians had received and were using well: ". . . we are constantly mindful of the way you are proving your faith, and laboring in love, and showing constancy of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Faith, hope, love -- the great theological virtues given to us but ultimately belonging to God. We prove our faith by living Gospel values; we labor in love by showing active concern for those in need; we show hope by trusting in divine providence. This type of life, embraced with joy and courage, demonstrates that we are genuine disciples.

Isaiah the prophet speaks about a "Caesar" in his own day, a man by the name of Cyrus. The Lord chose this foreigner to shape a certain portion of history. Twice the prophet informs us that Cyrus did not know God, he did not know to whom he belonged. Despite this ignorance, Cyrus was an instrument and did the bidding of the Lord.

A sense of belonging is one of our deepest needs. Yet disconnection is one of our most common experiences. Why is this the case? Perhaps, like the pagan Cyrus, we simply don't know. Many people do not believe that we are created by God and redeemed by Christ and led by the Holy Spirit. There is a "disconnect" here and a sense of forlornness and isolation. We are thrown into the universe and are attached to no one or anything. Much discouragement and despair can be associated with this lack of belonging.

How do we get reconnected? How do we gain that right relationship with God that brings both peace and joy? It is not by anything that we do. Rather, it is the work of God and comes to those who open their minds and hearts to the grace of conversion. By turning from darkness to light, from indifference to love, from death to life we discover who we are and to whom we belong. It is all the work of grace.

So, "is it lawful to pay tax to the emperor or not?" That's not the real question. Rather, "is it wise to place our lives at the disposal of a God who is creator, redeemer, and sanctifier?" Here is the real question. When answered affirmatively, we enter deeply into the community of faith, hope, and love. When failing to do so, we stay in our lost condition and must await the next invitation of grace which tells us who we are and to whom we belong.

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

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