Seeking peace of God through repentance Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Apr. 26, 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,

In the Gospel passages of the last few weeks, we have heard time and again how real the Resurrection is. Jesus rose, not with the same physical body He had before, but He rose with a real body that could be touched. His real glorified body could somehow be touched, with the nail marks in the hands and the feet, and the wound in the side from the soldier’s lance. All those wounds were visible and tangible in Jesus’ glorified body.

That’s a good thing to pray about — that the wounds of Jesus were not healed in His risen body. They didn’t disappear, but at the same time, they were not seen as something that would disfigure Him. His wounds were meant to be glorified in a real, immortal body — one that would never die again, but one that would in fact be touched, one that could pass through doors, and yet could eat substantial food with the Apostles. That’s how real the Resurrection is.

Joyful reality of Christ’s Resurrection

This very real Resurrection cancels out the finality of sorrow, and sadness, and stress, and fear that there could ever be. That’s what the reality of the Resurrection means, for nothing could be more joyful. But it’s curious, especially in the readings of this past Sunday, that in the midst of our Easter joy, and at the very start of the Apostles’ spreading of the Good News of the Resurrection that the principal word is not, “Rejoice!” St. Peter, for example, begins his witness to the Resurrection, saying:

“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:13-15).

That does not sound like the start of an invitation to rejoicing; it sounds like St. Peter is chastising the people. “You denied the Holy and Righteous One . . . you asked that a murderer be released . . . you put the author of life to death . . .” Peter says. But, he continues, “I know that you acted out of ignorance . . . Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

In order to really accept into our hearts the joy of that real Resurrection we have to start with the fact that we’re sinners.

And if you look at the Apostles’ preaching in the Acts of the Apostles, they always begin by recounting the sinfulness of themselves and the people, and the need to repent, because the joy of the Resurrection means nothing to the one who has no need of redemption.

The joy of the Resurrection strikes the heart of a person at the deepest level, only when he or she knows that they are sinners. Resurrection consciousness is only available to those, with the assistance of the Spirit, who have a humble consciousness of their own sinfulness.

Knowing we are sinners and repenting

You read the words of Peter the Apostle, the Rock, I didn’t make them up. And the Apostolic preaching always took that form, because they knew the truth of the real Resurrection and they followed the example of Jesus.

When Jesus appeared out of the desert, at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, He was preaching a gospel of repentance. “Repent,” Jesus said, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” In order to repent of our sins, we have to know that we are sinners. The more one realizes their sinfulness, the deeper they experience the peace and the joy of the Resurrection.

In the Second Reading from this past Sunday (the Third Sunday of Easter), we hear it again, “My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” (1 Jn 2:1). And, John says, the way to avoid sin, is to keep the Lord’s Commandments. Those who know God, are known to keep His Commandments. If someone says, “I know God,” but does not keep His Commandments, he is a liar.

Conscience of people being denied

We have the terrible situation in our country and in our culture where the sacred conscience of the human person is being denied its rights.

Conscience seeks the Truth, it’s like a Truth-seeking radar, scanning the horizon for Truth. Conscience never makes up the Truth. I follow my conscience, and my conscience follows the Truth. God’s law is the Truth.

So, if someone doesn’t follow the commandments, if they use “conscience” as an excuse not to follow the Commandments, they are, in fact, lying. They may be ignorant, just as the people to whom Peter preached were ignorant, but if they are not following God’s Commandments, they are not really following their conscience, for their conscience should always be in accord with the Truth.

‘Peace be with you’ is foretaste of peace of heaven

In the Gospel from this past Sunday, the first thing Jesus says, when He appears to the Apostles after the Resurrection is, “Peace be with you.”

In the liturgy of the Church, that greeting is reserved to the bishop, unworthy though he is, as a passing-on of the peace given to him as an Apostle. What peace does that mean? It means the peace that the Jewish people experienced on the Sabbath, as a foretaste of the peace of the Eternal Sabbath of the Lord. When the bishop says, “Peace be with you,” it means that fullness of peace which is, “Shalom.” That peace is a foretaste of the peace of heaven which comes especially through the liturgy of the Church, the Eucharist.

Peace today is not out of reach

In our lives, there is stress everywhere. Stress is almost a way of life, the air we breathe, such that the peace which Jesus wants for us to have somehow seems out of reach, because so many are so stressed-out. So many people, in their daily lives, don’t experience even a hint of the peace of heaven. If the Resurrection is real, then that peace of heaven, that Shalom, is not out of reach.

But, we remember that the experience of the reality of the Resurrection depends upon the experience of our need for Redemption from our own sinfulness. There is a conversion, at the deepest level that must take place, in order for us to experience the greatest peace possible.

We must come to a realization of our sinfulness and need for repentance, in order to come to the full realization of Resurrection peace in our lives. May you and I live out that conversion each and every day, for it flows from the love of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and the Spirit.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Continued Easter Blessings for you and yours! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!