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Reflection
on the Readings


 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinMarch 7, 2008 Issue 

Waste no time allotted to you

Reflect prayerfully on the mysteries of death and resurrection

March 9, 2008 -- Fifth Sunday of Lent


By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. In what ways do you experience the Holy Spirit as present in your life?

2. How seriously do you live each day?

3. Over the past week, what has been the quality of your prayer and almsgiving?

A Lenten companion: St. Augustine of Hippo. Augustine (354-430), a bishop and doctor of the church, was a brilliant scholar and a gifted preacher. Recently, a volume of his sermons was published, including a number that were only discovered in 1990. In "Essential Sermons: The Works of Saint Augustine, A Translation for the 21st Century," introd. and notes by Daniel E. Doyle, O.S.A., trans. by Edmund Hill, O.P. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2007), we have access to the thoughts of one of the most influential theologians in the history of the Church. Augustine's ponderings might assist us in celebrating more fully our Lenten liturgy.

L e n t

"The last day is hidden from us, in order that every day may be taken seriously" (53). Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary and a friend of Jesus, did not know when he would die. Though ill, he, like most of us, expected to spend more time here on earth. But death came and then the mystery of Jesus calling him back to life. One can only wonder how Lazarus spent the remaining time given to him.

During Lent we have the opportunity to reflect prayerfully on the mysteries of death and resurrection. Will we spend the days and years remaining for us in a serious fashion, fulfilling our responsibilities and duties with love? Will we look forward to that risen life promised to those who participate in the paschal mystery? We know not the day we will die. It is hidden from us and Augustine claims that this lack of knowledge should compel us to waste no time still allotted to us.

"And by almsgiving and prayers may past evil be blotted out and future good things come that are everlasting" (55). St. Paul keeps reminding us that the Spirit of Christ dwells within us. It is a Spirit that leads us to prayer and generosity. St. Augustine, understanding well the writings of St. Paul, tells us that almsgiving and sincere prayer has great power in dealing with past sins as well as fostering a hopeful future. Again, this is the work of the Holy Spirit who gives life and health to all who refuse to live by the flesh.

Though five weeks removed from Ash Wednesday, we recall those three imperatives of fast, pray, and give alms. St. Augustine and St. Paul strove to live these commandments but they both knew that they would fail unless the power of God was upon them. They both knew the message of Ezekiel the prophet who communicated God's promise of graves being open, a homeland restored, a life-giving Spirit being offered. Paul and Augustine were both keenly aware of their sinfulness and the need for God's redemptive mercy. With them we pray the responsorial refrain: "With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption."

One last Lenten reflection from St. Augustine: "But if you have the Holy Spirit as the occupant of your house, you will find him also assisting you in everything good" (112). Lazarus, Martha, Mary, Paul, and Augustine all experienced the occupancy of the Holy Spirit. May we experience the same.


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


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