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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinOctober 13, 2006 Issue 

Embrace God's word in your soul

God's word challenges us to grow, and offers the possibility of true joy

October 15, 2006 -- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What challenges do you deal with at the present time?

2. Is it possible to teach old dogs new tricks?

3. Why is discouragement a major impediment to spiritual growth?

Over the past several years, a number of inmates at the Green Bay Correctional Institute have participated in a program called "Challenges and Possibilities." The program is devised to challenge the men to look deeply into their lives and to assess the possibilities available to them to change their lives and contribute to society. A major component of "Challenges and Possibilities" is a session on restorative justice wherein victims of crimes and inmates meet face to face to deal with the harm and guilt involved in crime.

God's word consistently challenges all of us to grow in the Spirit; God's word also offers incredible possibilities to lead full and meaningful lives.

The anonymous man in the Gospel was offered a challenge but failed to respond. We know several things about the man: He had many possessions; he had an urgency about him in that he ran to see Jesus; he was respectful, kneeling before the Lord and calling Jesus a good teacher; he was desirous of everlasting life; he was a moral man, having kept the commandments since birth. And then the challenge came! Take your possessions and share them with the poor. Here was the possibility of true joy. We know the rest of the story - the man's face fell and he went away sad.

In the book of Hebrews we hear of challenges and possibilities. The challenge is to embrace God's word and let that word become effective in the depth of one's soul. But a warning is issued: God's word is sharper than a two-edged sword. One should think twice before grasping it since it will penetrate and divide; it will judge our every thought and affection; it will lay bare all that we are and do. So what is the possibility in saying yes to God's message and purpose? Peace. We keep coming back to the theme of right relationships. When life is properly ordered, then we know peace; when God's word is operative in our heart and in our communities, then we have the possibility of joy.

There is yet another challenge: Pray for prudence and wisdom. Indeed, plead for these graces since they are values greater than power, riches, gems, health, comeliness, and even light. This is difficult for us to accept since wisdom and prudence seem remote and intangible. Yet, these virtues are just as real as nails and cabbage plants. Wisdom enables us to know what is truly pleasing to God; prudence, the mother of the moral virtues (i.e., justice, fortitude, and temperance) helps us to deliberate, judge, and act with consistency and moral ease. Gifted with these virtues, many possibilities emerge: wise counsel, moral rectitude, a stewardship way of life, holiness.

Correctional institutions do not seem likely places for challenges and possibilities. Rather, for many these prisons are places of "impossibility." Gifts are not named and nurtured; hope is dashed against the rock of indifference and hostility; loneliness depresses the soul as one is separated from family and friends. This need not be the case. With leadership and motivation and good will, challenges and possibilities can arise and transform not only individuals but an entire culture.

The underlying question in all of this is whether or not change is possible, that is, radical change that we call conversion. God's word is based on the assumption that grace is operative everywhere and thus all things are possible with God.

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

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