Freedom through Christ’s Resurrection Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 -- 12:00 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,

What a joy the celebration of the Sacred Triduum was and what a joy this Easter has been for me, and I hope it was the same for each of you!

Among the joys for me at Easter was the spending of time with many of our diocesan seminarians, who always inspire me with joy and with hope for the future.

The future is very bright here in our diocese and in our Church, and our great young seminarians are a sign of that — these men who continue to look to Jesus Christ to turn them into Himself, so that they can be in the person of Jesus Christ, for the sake of all the other vocations, and for the sake of all of God’s people. Despite the difficulties we face, there is a great deal of hope, for indeed the future is guaranteed, and God’s grace will remain — especially through the Sacraments which God’s priests provide.

Another great joy of our Easter celebration which I experienced, and which you experienced in so many of our parishes, was the welcoming of new men and women into full-communion with our Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.

I had the opportunity to be with some of them at the Rite of Election, but I send to all of our recent neophytes from every parish my promise of prayers and my heartfelt greetings. We are so very proud of the formation that was undertaken by these men and women for the reception of the Sacraments, and we look forward, with great joy and great pride, to their being wonderful instruments in the hand of Jesus Christ in the days ahead.

Passing over from slavery to freedom

In the reception of the Sacraments, what our neophytes witnessed to is the freedom which Christ brings. It is a story of freedom which has its beginnings in the roots of our Jewish ancestors. At the Easter vigil we mark the Passover of the Lord, we mark the passing over from the old creation to the new creation, and we mark the passing over from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.

What was the old creation like? Well, it was meant to be very beautiful, but Adam and Eve had their freewill twisted by the ancient serpent, the devil. And so with Adam and Eve sin came into the world, and with sin, death and all that that means. That was the old creation from which we are passing over.

We’re also passing over from slavery to freedom. The Jewish people were treated in inhuman ways as they labored in Egypt. They didn’t get basic nourishment, let alone a day’s pay. They got nothing. And from that terrible slavery, they passed over to freedom in the Promised Land.

And what was that freedom all about? When they got to the Promised Land of freedom, how did the Jewish people celebrate that? They built a temple — for what they wanted, at their very core, was their religious freedom. That’s why Passover continues to be a core celebration of the Jewish faith, for the Jewish people escaped from slavery to be who God was calling them to be.

The people of Israel wanted freedom of religion, freedom to follow the Law which the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob wrote on their hearts, the law which was natural to them — that we call the language of creation. They wanted freedom to be true to themselves, as created by God — freedom to follow their conscience. So they passed over from the old creation, from the ways of sin and death to the new, anticipating the Resurrection.

They passed from the bonds and burdens of slavery to true freedom, especially so that they could worship their God and find their salvation. That’s what the Passover was about for the Israelite people.

What the new creation is for us

Now, what does the new creation look like today, for us? What does the freedom to which we are called look like? We hear it so beautifully proclaimed at the start of the Easter Vigil:

“Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness …This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace, and joining them to his holy ones” (Exultet).

The freedom to which we are called is freedom from “gloom and darkness,” from “the gloom of sin.” Those who received the gifts of the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil, and each of us when we participate in the Church’s Sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion, by our Baptism, again put on Christ and become free from sin, for the freedom with which Christ has made us free. And in Confirmation we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, unto strength, so that we can live out that freedom.

New life through the Sacraments

Through the Sacraments, we are changed at the deepest level of our souls, and made stronger so that, indeed, we can all keep our freedom of religion, keep our freedom of conscience, and worship the one true God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. That is the new life that we receive through the Sacraments. It is a new life of freedom.

And what does that mean? What does it mean to pass over from a fallen nature to a redeemed nature?

Original sin took the depths of a human person and pointed that human person, at his or her depths, toward evil — giving us a strong inclination toward evil. As St. Paul puts it — the things that I don’t want to do, I do, and the very things that I want to do, I avoid.

This mystery of inquity, this mystery of sinfulness, this original sin lives within me. But to all of us who have been pointed in the direction of sin and death by the sin of Adam, Christ grants freedom by the gifts of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. These Sacraments point our will back in the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ and the good that He wills for us.

In Christ, by God’s grace, as we grow in virtue over a long period of time, it becomes easier to do good, because the Holy Spirit strengthens us with His seven-fold gifts, so that we have the courage to build up a habit, to say “no” to what is opposed to Christ and “yes” to his will.

Every day we should pray about our Baptism, our Confirmation, and our Eucharist — the changes that have already taken place in the depths of our beings, so that according to God’s will we have everything working for us.

Christ stacked the deck in our favor

In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, He stacked the deck in our favor, when we want to grow in virtue and do good, because we have the grace of Christ helping us to do good.

The only one who wants to help us to do evil is the devil, and we need to reject him every day — he won’t quit, and he’s smarter and stronger than we are, with the intelligence and power of a fallen angel.

But, we’re not left empty handed or disarmed; we are armed with the graces of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. We have the freedom with which Christ made us free, a freedom which is oriented toward everything that Jesus wants for us.

We have a special help called grace, day-in and day-out, to do His will. And the devil has nothing that compares to the Grace of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! And that’s what we should pray about when we’re tempted: compared to the power of Jesus Risen, the devil has nothing. The next time he gets you on the ropes remember that — he’s got nothing. Jesus has already won this battle in His Resurrection. Let that prayerful realization fill you.

A free will, strengthened by grace, oriented to do God’s will. That’s what Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist are all about — and how dare any earthly power try to take that freedom away from us! Encroachments on our freedom of religion and freedom of conscience cannot stand, because they cannot stand in the world of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

The celebration of Easter is the celebration of the freedom with which Christ made us free. The freedom into which the Jewish people passed over, the freedom to which we pass over by the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Let that freedom and the fight for that freedom ring out in every blessed one of you.

That is Easter joy; that is Easter hope; that is Easter peace; that is Easter love and charity. Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!