Journeying home during the Lenten season Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

In the first place, let me thank you most sincerely for your remembrance in prayer during the days of my vacation. They were special days for me of friendship, especially friendship with the Lord, and also some needed rest and recreation. The time was most enjoyable and life-giving, I’m sure in large part due to your prayers. And, of course, I remembered all of you every blessed day.

As I get back into things, please allow me to share with you, briefly, my own thoughts about Lent of this year as it draws near. There has been a recent shark attack which resulted in the death of the victim. One of the experts on sharks who was consulted mentioned, as his bottom line, the following: the ocean is the natural habitat of sharks and all other sea-going creatures — it is not the natural habitat for human beings, and so entering into that habitat always entails risk for human beings.

 

Given that Lent has been moving to the “front burner” of my own mind, those remarks immediately directed my thoughts to Lent. One of the Lenten prefaces addresses these words to the Lord: “You call us to spend each day in this passing world, with our hearts firmly set on the world to come, which has no end.” St. Paul reinforces this mystery of our faith, saying that our true citizenship, our true homeland, is in Heaven and we dwell here in this world as in a foreign land. Thus, we frequently use the image of pilgrimage to describe the time that the Lord gives us here on this earth.

How ‘at home’ are we?

The basic question becomes, for me, and I believe for all of us, how much are we “at home” in this world? How much are we “at home” in the United States? How much are we “at home” in the 11 counties of South-Central Wisconsin?

There are many reasons that cause different people to feel less than at home. Those who are convinced that global warming is real and is caused by human activity are not completely “at home” in this world. Those who are uncomfortable with a number of directions taken by the current national administration here in the U.S.A. are very outspoken in expressing how much they are beginning to feel unwelcome in their native land. Sometimes in the Diocese of Madison even Catholics make it very clear to the bishop, even in public arenas, that the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church is not welcome in all of its details.

On the other hand, I love the world. It is a beautiful gift of God, which has been entrusted to us as stewards, but which we can never, by our own effort, make perfect. The perfectibility of our world by human effort and by particular political systems was the utopianism of Karl Marx, which is incompatible with the faith of our Catholic Church and heritage.

Reminding us of our true homeland

And so it is good that these various “discomforts” of our concrete life in the world, in our country, and in the diocese remind us that our true citizenship is not here, precisely as St. Paul wrote. Lent is a time for allowing our not-at-home-ness in this world to remind us of our true homeland in Heaven.

One who is determined to make perfect his or her life in this world, let alone to make the world perfect, has little time to think of Heaven. And yet, if we make Lent a time really to love the things of Heaven, we first think about those “things.” We think about knowing God face-to-face, not vaguely, in a mirror. We think about the reunion with our family and loved ones, for which we hope in Heaven. We think about the certainty that there is no pain, no suffering, no mourning, no death, no sadness whatsoever in Heaven. We think of a supernatural happiness that goes far beyond any natural happiness that this world could ever offer us, even though such natural happiness is hard enough to come by.

Suffering, discomfort, pain, sadness, disappointment all happen in the world because of original sin, but they are also wake-up calls to the truth of our citizenship in Heaven. As we focus on this truth during Lent, we will naturally look for other ways to realize that we are not called to be “comfortable” in our world, in our country, in our diocese. We are called to realize that Heaven alone, with the face-to-face vision of God is the “comfortable setting” for which we are destined and nothing else can fully satisfy the human heart.

Examining our temporary home

Lent is a time, then, to look at all the facets of life in our world, in our country, in our diocese, that remind ourselves of Heaven by making us less comfortable here. And it is a time intentionally to add to our discomfort — not for its own sake, but to allow the Lord to fill up those corners of our heart which are empty with the fullness that Heaven promises.

Then it will be the case that how things go in this world can never be the end of the matter for us. Then we are filled with the Hope that can never disappoint. Then we are filled with the joy of those who through Baptism carry a Heavenly passport. And opening our deepest selves to the gift of that joy is surely what Lent is all about, leading to its culmination with the celebration of the great Easter mystery.

Thank you for reading this. May the Lord’s blessings fill you and your family and loved ones generously during the coming days of Lent! Praised be Jesus Christ!