||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.
This past weekend we celebrated, Laetare Sunday, that is, “Rejoice Sunday.” As someone who watches and reads the news a lot, I’m tempted to be left in a less-than-Laetare mood — not much of a mood to rejoice.
The overwhelming majority of news, in fact, leaves me in a mood that is very sad. I honestly do fear that our country is on a very, very dangerous path. I do fear that our country is choosing darkness, rather than the light, and I do fear the consequences of that (as we heard in the Gospel this past Sunday (Jn 3:14-21).
But, in truth, that does not keep me from rejoicing, because my life is not all about the news, and my life is not all about this country, or even this world. The main thing in my life is Jesus Christ, who is still Risen from the Dead! And that’s why this past Sunday, in the midst of Lent, we were able to celebrate “Rejoice Sunday” — because our celebration of the Easter feast is only three weeks away.
Rejoicing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
That Resurrection victory of Jesus Christ is the absolute last word about the journey of humanity in this world. Whatever may be happening in our country or what will happen does not change the destiny of our journey. And that is why, in the Psalms this past Sunday (Ps 137:1-6) we sang, “Let my tongue be silent if ever I forget you!” If ever we forget the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and our home with them, there is only one reasonable place to go and that is into the depths of despair. But as a Church we’re not going to forget, and that is why we can rejoice!
We can rejoice because of what we heard at the beginning of the First Reading from this past Sunday (2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23): God’s people sinned again, and again, and again, but He did not abandon them. Why? We heard that in our Second Reading (Eph 2:4-10), “For we are God’s handiwork.” In other words, we are God’s work of art. God is not going to abandon his human work of art, under any circumstances.
God fixes his ‘own creation’
Consider the artist who is really devoted to the artwork that he produces; if that artwork ever becomes defaced, he doesn’t say, “throw it away.” The artist who recognizes the goodness of his creation says, “let me fix it.” And so when we deface our own humanity through sin, God says, “let me fix it,” and indeed He already has fixed it, by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And if we fall again, He will fix it…provided that we admit our sins!
We cannot have the healing of God, unless we admit that we need healing. If we won’t accept the healing, then we can die in our sin. The way we accept the healing of God is to say, “I’m a sinner, I need healing.”
Preparing for Easter through Confession
This should serve as a great reminder that, in Lent, to prepare for Easter, one of the major things we do is make a good Confession. And we encourage our friends, and family members, and neighbors to make a good Confession. Every year more and more people are coming back to Confession. We need everybody to come back to Confession, because this is a Church of seven Sacraments. In order to be a Catholic, you need to accept that the Church has seven Sacraments, and not six. So let’s encourage family, friends, and neighbors who are Catholic to make a good Confession, to receive the healing of God.
The second point is about King Cyrus, about whom we heard in our First Reading this past Sunday. King Cyrus was a very important and powerful pagan leader. He had no interest whatsoever in God, but when God really needed to save His people, He inspired even King Cyrus!
King Cyrus became God’s instrument to lead the chosen people back to Jerusalem, to build the temple! When the chosen people returned to Jerusalem, the King appointed a mayor and a high priest. God even inspired him to give all the money to rebuild the temple.
No leader can thwart God’s purposes
From the example of Cyrus, a pagan with no interest in God, we can be reminded that no matter who a worldly leader is, that leader is not powerful enough to thwart God’s purposes. When God inspired King Cyrus, though he was a pagan, He gladly went along. Maybe others wouldn’t, but no leader in the world is powerful enough to thwart God’s providence, to thwart God’s plan for the end of the journey and ultimate victory of His beloved people — the Heavenly Jerusalem won by the death and Resurrection. That’s why we can rejoice! No world leader can undo the victory of the Resurrection!
For my third point, we return to the Gospel of this past Sunday, remembering that those who belong to God rush to the light, and those who don’t, hate the light and choose the darkness. Common sense and observations tell us when most crimes occur — at night. When a serious crime occurs in open daylight, great surprise is expressed. The darkness is the place where evil-doers flourish; they hate the light. The deeper the darkness is all the better for those who prefer to choose against Jesus Christ. But those of us who are with Christ are drawn to the light, to the Truth. We can’t get enough of it.
Seek the light and Truth, vote responsibly
This too is important as we look at our world situation, because we have to perform a moral act come May (or June) and come November — we have to vote, which is a moral act that can be good or can be evil. The most serious responsibility that we have — and I know you know this, but I’m repeating it so that you can tell your family, your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors — as Catholics living in this constitution-based republic, is to seek the truth and to vote responsibly.
Those who love the Lord can’t get enough of the light, that is, they can’t get enough of the truth. What we already have, and what we have coming are a string of political commercials, one-after-another, every one of which, of either party, contains partial lies, if not total lies. I’m afraid that those commercials work (which is why they spend millions, and millions, and millions of dollars on them). Many people vote based upon the commercials which are, in large part, false.
Those who are drawn to the light have a responsibility to find the light and the truth. Almost all of those political commercials are devoid of any truth that would help one to make a responsible decision about how to vote. We have to somehow get past the nonsense of the commercials and sound bites. Somehow those commercials make up a layer that has to be peeled away, and should not be the setting that determines how one votes. And I’d ask you to remind others of that reality.
Again, in the Psalm of this past Sunday we sang, “let my tongue be silent, if ever I forget you!” Don’t forget the Lord! Don’t forget the light and the Truth! Don’t forget our ultimate home, the heavenly Jerusalem! Don’t let your tongue be silent! If we do not forget, then we’ll have just another of many reasons, amid all the doom and gloom of the world situation, to rejoice!
Thank you for taking the time to read this! May you and your loved ones enjoy continued Lenten blessings! Praised be Jesus Christ!