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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinAugust 22, 2003 Issue 

God's word addresses all dimensions

We are called in mind, heart and hands to follow the Holy Spirit

August 31, 2003 -- Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What is the level of your wisdom and intelligence?

2. What resides in the deepest recesses of your heart?

3. Do you desire a "new heart?"

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the great French scientist and apologist, is famous for his statement: "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." Here is a person who, at age16, published articles on intricate matters of mathematics. Here is a committed Christian who believed in the mystery of Jesus and the importance of the human heart. For Pascal, every dimension of the human person - the cognitive (mind), the affective (heart), the behavioral (ethics) - has its proper significance.

Today's readings address all three dimensions of our lives. In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses makes reference to wisdom and intelligence (cognitive domain). Whoever learns the statues and decrees of the Lord and teaches others to observe is truly wise and intelligent. Moses is referring to the commandments, the basic laws that govern our relationship with God and one another. When we worship God alone, honor our parents, respect life and sexuality, we demonstrate that we are a wise and intelligent people.

But we often just don't get it. We think that we can adore both God and money. Or, we think that we are free to take life and disregard the truth. And sometimes we forget that God's commandments are grounded in love, not legislation. We need to ask continually for the grace of wisdom and knowledge, the gifts of understanding and counsel.

The letter of James takes us to the ethical dimension of our lives. We are not only to let God's word take root in us, we are also to "act on this word." Failure to do so is simply self-deception. Our task is to look after the vulnerable (orphans and widows) and remain uncontaminated by the world. James insists that we put the truth into action. Or, as St. Paul expresses it, "do the truth in love."

Discipleship demands action. In following Jesus we are to bear fruit. Whether we visit prisons, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, we are to respond to the needs of our neighbor. "The loving person responds" (Eric Fromm). We demonstrate our commitment to the Kingdom by translating our Christian values into Christian action.

In-between the cognitive (mind) and behavioral (ethics) dimensions of our life is the affective, the matters of the heart. Jesus is deeply concerned with the "deep recesses of the heart." Jesus is deeply concerned that our reverence not be empty (heartless), that we do not pay lip service to God. Rather, his desire is that God may truly be glorified in our hearts. Jesus' ministry centered on conversion of the heart, longing that people be on fire with the Spirit and burning with love.

From the heart comes good things: generosity, sacrifice, compassion, mercy, forgiveness. From the heart comes wicked designs: theft, murder, greed, fornication, deceit. Our hearts are mysterious even to us. We might do well to turn to Ezekiel the prophet (36:25-27) and ponder the passage in which God promises us a new heart, a heart of flesh and not of stone. And, as we know, our God is a promise maker and a promise keeper.

The mind, the heart, the hands - the cognitive, the affective, the behavioral. God's word addresses every area of our life and is calling us to on-going conversion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, a work we are asked to cooperate with on a daily basis. Indeed, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."

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

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