Obedience is a wonderful recipe for a holy Lent Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Mar. 10, 2011 -- 1:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
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,

This week we begin Lent and the readings of this past Sunday lead us perfectly to Ash Wednesday.

The First Reading (Deut 11:18, 26-28, 32) said clearly that we are to obey God's statutes and commandments and decrees. We're to be an obedient people -- a hard word for our culture. Authority is always under fire, whether it's civil authority in the government or whether it's the Sacred authority of the Apostles. Even in the Church, authority is always under fire. And so it is that bishops are used to dodging the various arrows that are slung our way -- and it is all in a day's work.

But, authority is simply given out of love by God Our Father, so as to lead His people to their salvation. That's all it is -- it's a service, and it's a humble service. Sometimes when people in the Church have to exercise that authority they do it humbly, but then afterward they really get humbled. But, that's okay, because authority and humility should be tied together.

Go for the maximum

In the Second Reading (Rom 3:21-25, 28), Saint Paul tells us that obedience to the law is good, but it's not enough. God's Grace enables us not simply to fulfill the law in a minimal way, but to go for the maximum, to go for being heroes, to go for being saints.

Then in the Gospel Reading (Mt 7:21-27) we are told, more specifically, how to do this. Repeatedly in the readings we have the words, "the one who listens to." That is the same as, "the one who obeys." The readings are saturated with the notion of listening hard to God, with the notion of obedience. And so really to be obedient to the Word of God involves keeping the commandments as a minimum, but then, by the power of God's Grace, to go for what is heroic -- to go for the maximum.

Build your house on solid rock

We are called, as the Gospel says, to be the one whose faith is founded on solid rock -- very stable, very durable, very unshakable -- and not to be the one who builds his faith on sand. Pope Benedict, this week, considered what Scripture means by that foundation of sand. The sand, the Holy Father said, is earthly power, and pleasure, and money. And we know that an awful lot of people build their house on the shifting sands of earthly power, and money, and pleasure, which is so often lost more quickly than it is acquired.

Obedience is a wonderful recipe for a holy Lent. Obedience in terms of listening hard to the word of God, who tells us, "don't build your house on power, or pleasure, or money. Build your house on the solid rock who is Christ.

Dealing with the things that irritate us

It's a wonderful recipe and I want to give one specific example how one might build one's house on solid rock through obedience during Lent. All of us have things in our daily life that trouble us, that bug us, that irritate us. We have those things both at home and at work. These are things we feel at some moments are going to drive us crazy or be the end of us. God doesn't send those things our way to torture us, that's not what they're all about. But, God does permit those things so that we might grow in patience and wisdom, and holiness. All of those things that irritate us are meant to be turned around, not by us, but by the grace of God, which helps us to go beyond obeying the law. Our annoyances are meant to be turned around and used for our ultimate good.

Lent is a time to ask God for the Grace to face all of those daily irritations and problems with gratitude. It is time to say, "Thank you God for this, because this is tailor-made to help me grow in virtue, especially in patience and in holiness." That is our recipe for a good Lent, and that is our growth plan. God allows irritations to come our way so that we can grow in holiness. Those irritations and those problems are our growth plan -- not caused by God, but permitted by Him.

When we're able to give thanks for those irritations and problems, that constitutes a beautiful act of obedience. What the Lord allows to come my way, I don't gripe about constantly; rather I accept it as God's way for me to grow in patience and holiness.

And the Lord's grace can work a miracle in you and me, such that those things that cause us trouble and irritation every day can, after a while through the practice of patience and obedience, become our joy. That's how powerful obedience is. Obedience does not imprison us; obedience frees us up to be our best in terms of patience and in terms of holiness, and in terms of doing the mission of Christ in the world.

Gospel of obedience

Our society sees any call to obedience as a curse. So, this Lent and every Lent we really have a Gospel to preach, a Gospel of obedience. Remember Jesus' salvation-bringing death on the cross was an act of love, because it was an act of obedience. An act of obedience saved us. An act of obedience opened the gates of heaven to us. Obedience frees the spirit for eternal life. It frees us from being imprisoned in the things of this world.

It's a great gift! And that's good news given to us for Lent. So, as we enter into Lent, let's ponder what are those irritations and problems in our own lives that we often curse. Shouldn't we learn from the Lord and listen hard so that we can obey and endure the things that come our way in life with joy? If the things that irritate most people turn out making us happy, I think many, many more hearts will be changed and I think there will be many, many more people drawn to Jesus Christ. That is what Lent is all about. Let's do it!

A blessed Lent to you and yours. Praised be Jesus Christ!