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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinMay 16, 2008 Issue 

Divine life and love through grace

We accept whatever God sends our way with love and reverence

May 18, 2008 -- The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How has your image of God evolved over the years?

2. In what ways are you merciful and kind, slow to anger and gracious?

3. What do you understand by the "sacrament of the present moment?"

Back in 2004, I had the opportunity to spend a week at Our Lady of Gethsemami, the Trappist monastery in Kentucky. In praying the Divine Office, the monks used a variation of our traditional "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

The variation was: "Praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The God who is, and who was, and who is to come, now and for ever. Amen."

We are a Trinitarian people, believing that our God created us, our God came among us in Jesus, and our God sustains us still through the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul articulates this for us in his second Letter to the Corinthians: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Cor. 13:13). We do well to ponder this powerful, rich greeting.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ . . ." Grace means divine life and love. St. John reminds us time and time again that God loves the world to such an extent that his Son was sent, not to condemn, but to save the world. If we truly believe this and live in accord with this teaching, we are given a share in eternal life.

In his novel "The Return of the Native," Thomas Hardy speaks about a life that is lacking in love: "Through want of it [love], she sung without being merry, possessed without enjoying, outshone without triumphing." By contrast, when someone knows that he or she is loved by God then our songs are truly merry, our possessions bring joy, and our victories make us radiant. Grace transforms everything. Without it, there is an abiding emptiness and loneliness.

". . . and the love of God." Pope Benedict XVI wrote his first encyclical "God is Love" to remind us of the very essence of God. This love has many layers as we read in the first reading from Exodus: God is merciful, gracious. slow to anger, rich in kindness, and forever faithful. This is the God revealed in Jesus.

St. Catherine of Siena shared a lesson given to her from God: "And they would see that everything I give is for love, and that therefore she should accept everything with love and reverence." In his classic work "Abandonment to Divine Providence," Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade speaks of the sacrament of the present moment. Through active fidelity we do what duty demands; through passive fidelity we accept whatever God sends our way with love and reverence. We can do this because we are aware of God's unconditional love.

". . . and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always." Our Triune God sustains us still, dwelling within us that we might be conformed to the image of Christ. This is the mystery of presence; this is the mystery of God's self-giving.

So we cry out in our responsorial refrain: "Glory and praise for ever!" Glory be to the God who created us, redeemed us, and sanctified us. Praise to the God who is rich in kindness, merciful and gracious, always faithful. "Glory and praise for ever!"

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

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