Changing hearts and minds Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Thursday, Nov. 08, 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,

By the time you see this (I hope) our political elections will have been decided, but as I write this column we’ve not yet reached Election Day. In many ways I’m glad for this, as it allows for me to write to you without being affected by those outcomes. At the end of the day, our hope does not lay in any political candidate or party, and our ultimate destination is not even anywhere in this world. Our hope rests always in the Lord, our God, and our ultimate destination is His home, His Kingdom.

Depending on who has won or lost the elections, our work may become easier or more difficult, but regardless who wins or loses, our job is unchanged. It is our work as Catholic women and men to do all we can, to welcome ever more the gift of His Kingdom. The race for political office has ended, and we have seen just how much time and energy (not to mention money) has been expended in order to insure victory for this or that man or woman for the span of four or six years. With this perspective we must ask ourselves what we are doing in the race toward heaven? How can we do anything less than to expend similar time and energy toward victory for eternity? The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of an athletic race (1 Cor 9:23-27) to encourage us in our efforts to, “run the race so as to win!” And that analogy holds true here as well!

And how do we do that? First, of course, we do that by engaging in the New Evangelization, to renew our encounter and personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to convince our brothers and sisters who have begun to neglect their faith as to what it is that our faith teaches and as to what it is that Jesus Christ is trying to do in their lives. We’ve talked about the New Evangelization in previous columns and will do so through the year.

But the Truth of our faith is also borne out by the truths written on the hearts of each and every man and woman, including those who do not know Jesus Christ. And so we must work to convince them too. We’ve got to work -- and hard -- to awaken people to the truths written in their hearts and work hard to protect the ecology of human nature.

Continue to change hearts, minds

Though our elections certainly do matter, and certainly are an extremely important way to effect change in our world, we must continue to work to effect change in hearts and minds. The reality is that no matter the outcome of the current election, what should be clear is that there are large portions of our society who are in need of a real conversion of heart, people who are lost and who are in need of truth and healing which only Jesus Christ can bring. And I would imagine that there is a great deal of fatigue following all of the effort and energy expended leading up to the elections, but as a people who really believe that Jesus Christ is calling us to action, we must “run and not grow weary (Is 40:31).” Our race, the race for heaven, continues.

So what must we do? We must work to increase respect for human life. We have to work and work hard to convince people that no life, no matter how small, weak, infirm, or old is lacking in full dignity and can be thrown away. We have to work and to work hard to convince our world that abortion, euthanasia or assisted suicide, and any technology that is destructive of unborn human life -- whether it be embryonic stem cell research, cloning, or the many lives required for in-vitro procedures -- do not respect human dignity and, in fact, are destructive of lives and of the fabric of our society. These are not political issues which we only seem to speak about during election seasons. We have to work hard to change hearts on this.

We must fight, and hard, to raise awareness for the inherent rights of religious liberty and of conscience, in order that every woman and man can have not only a right to life, but a right to seek eternal life. No government, no administration has the right to take away or deny the reasonable exercise of religion and of following one’s conscience, for one’s own good.

We must work -- and hard -- to help people to understand what marriage is, in accord with human nature and with all of human history, that is one woman and one man, committing to one another for one lifetime, with openness to children. That does not mean refusing to respect the dignity of those who experience same-sex attraction, but it does mean simply upholding the institution of marriage which is so necessary for the good of human existence and of our society.

And we must, must do all that we can to reach out to our families and to our neighbors in charity. In order to act in charity, we must lovingly offer them the truth -- the truths of Jesus Christ, and the truth on the above moral issues, but we must also lovingly reach out to them in their need, to offer spiritual, emotional, and material assistance.

Each of us must do something

Much has been made of the economy in the election now finished, and which vision for our economy will better assist all people, including those who are needy. But the reality is that the most impactful thing that each of us can and must do, in terms of caring for the needy, is DOING something. Our government should be oriented toward the common good for all people, but the reality is that on an individual level, we each must take responsibility of assisting one another. In accord with our tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, we believe that as much as possible should be accomplished at the local level -- that means starting with our families, our neighbors, and our faith families. We must be active, on a community level, in reaching out, and we need to do it today.

We are in a Year of Faith, so let’s do something about that, as we are always called to put on love above all things. The election is over. Let’s be about our Father’s business, and let’s get to work for our King.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! May God continue to bestow His blessings on you and your loved ones. Praised be Jesus Christ!