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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 15, 2005 Issue 

What are we to do to grow in the Lord?

The Easter season is a good time to recommit ourselves to the way of Jesus

April 17, 2005 -- Fourth Sunday of Easter

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How do you measure your spiritual growth?

2. What role does suffering play in our spiritual development?

3. In what sense is the call to maturity an essential part of baptism?

Maturity speaks of the fullness of life. One of our calls in baptism is exactly that: a call to maturity. The acorn that germinates and becomes a giant oak tree has achieved its destiny. The caterpillar turned butterfly has responded to its amazing vocation. And we, creatures of a creative, redeeming God, are set on a path toward the fullness of life.

We read in John's Gospel: "I came that they might have life and have it to the full." But his mission of Jesus can be thwarted by the misuse of human freedom. We need not, like the acorn or caterpillar, follow the path of life. We can choose death; we can go astray; we can refuse to heed the voice of God.

The people that Peter addressed in the Acts of the Apostles were deeply shaken because they were a part of a generation that had gone astray. So they raised that great question that is so fundamental to our human condition: "What are we to do?" Peter responds with words that lead to the fullness of life: reform, be baptized, believe in Jesus, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter was continuing the mission of Jesus in promoting life, life to the full.

What are we to do to grow in the Lord? During this year of the Eucharist we might spend 15 to 20 minutes a day praying for the grace to understand more deeply the person of Jesus and how He comes to us in the sacraments. The prayer of St. Richard might be a starting point: "Thanks be to Thee, my Lord, Jesus Christ, for all the benefits that Thou has given me, for all the pains and insults that Thou hast borne for me, O most merciful Friend, Redeemer, and Brother. May I see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly."

Now comes the hard part of Christianity. Growth will involve suffering, deep suffering. This is the path of Jesus and there is no other road leading to eternal life. Jesus was insulted, beaten, and crucified. As we participate in the paschal mystery, we come to that maturity that only the cross can bring. Ultimately this is not "understandable"; it is something that one must experience from the inside.

In the second reading a key word jumps out: patience. Living the Christian life demands extreme patience and indeed much hope. Our blessed assurance is grounded in the guardian of our souls, the one who healed us by his wounds, the risen Lord Jesus. Joyfully we proclaim: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."

Reaching the full stature of Christ is a life-long process. All of us are constantly in the mode of conversion, attempting through prayer and good works to make that pilgrimage from self to God. The Easter season is yet another opportunity to recommit ourselves to the way of Jesus, love, compassion and forgiveness.

Our opening prayer for this fourth Sunday of Easter captures the essence of growth, maturity, and fullness of life: "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, though your people walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should they fear; for they follow in faith the call of the Shepherd whom you sent for their hope and strength. Attune our minds to the sound of His voice, lead our steps in the path He has shown, that we may know the strength of His outstretched arm and enjoy the light of your presence forever. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen."

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay diocese and pastor at Resurrection Parish in Allouez.)

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