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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinAugust 19, 2005 Issue 

God selects some unlikely instruments

We will never know why God chose some to be agents of evangelization

August 21, 2005 -- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How do you discern God's ways and judgments in your life?

2. Is your God the God of Gethsemane and Calvary?

3. Have you ever attempted to be God's counselor?

St. Paul had a profound sense of the mystery of God. This apostle marveled at God's judgments since they were inscrutable and God's ways that were unsearchable. So vast was God's wisdom and knowledge that the finite human mind is simply overwhelmed. No one knows the mind of the Lord and obviously no one could possibly be God's counselor.

So when we witness the choice of Peter as the "Rock" upon which the Church was to be built, we too should be awe-struck. Jesus chose a strange group of individuals to further the mission of God's kingdom. There was in the mix a tax collector, fishermen, and other "common" folks. Jesus' judgments were inscrutable; his ways unsearchable.

Isaiah the prophet communicates another choice of authority. Shebna, the master of the palace, will be replaced by Eliakim. Like Peter, Eliakim will be given the key that leads into the life of God. The mission is to use the key well, opening and shutting according to God's purpose.

And then there is the choice of Paul himself. In writing to the Romans about the depth of God's wisdom and the strangeness of divine judgments, Paul is obviously doing a piece of autobiography. Why was he chosen? Why would God take someone who persecuted the early Christians and make him an instrument of evangelization? All Paul can say in response is glory be to God forever.

God's judgments and ways continue to be inscrutable and unsearchable. When Pope John XXIII was elected, many people scratched their heads. When, at age 78, Pope Benedict XVI became our universal leader many people were amazed. When Mother Teresa of Calcutta worked the streets of that city, people asked why. Then there is St. Francis, St. Augustine, St. Monica, Dorothy Day, G. K. Chesterton, Simone Weil and the list goes on. In all these lives we discern God's strange selection of people who often seemed unlikely agents of God's light, love, and life.

What is of central urgency here is our concept of God. Ronan Williams writes: "Much of the history of early Christian thought is the record of efforts to domesticate the alien God of Gethsemane and Calvary, the God whom Paul and Ignatius, men very close to the edges of human experience, had so joyfully embraced." Those two images, the garden and the hill - Gethsemane and Calvary - manifest a God who knew our human suffering from the inside and embraced the human condition out of love for humanity. Again, we are puzzled at God's wisdom and knowledge, of God's judgments and ways.

In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," we are given another insight into God's mysterious ways: "Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well / When our deep plots do pall; and that should teach us / There's a divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will" (V, ii, 8-10). God is foxy. Even our blunders and indiscretions can end up working out being salvific. God does shape our ends even though we are ignorant of that divine pragmatism.

Isaiah, Paul, and Peter were all called for a unique mission. Why they were chosen and not others, we will never know. What we do know is that God's judgments and ways transcend our comprehension. And that, in itself, is a major grace.

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

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