Being ‘with the Lord’ Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 -- 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,

“With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption (Ps 130:7).” We were reminded in the Responsorial Psalm of this past Sunday. And these are precisely the thoughts to which we should turn our minds and hearts as we come upon Holy Week, Easter, and the celebration of His Divine Mercy.

I would like to take a look briefly at the three major ideas in the above verse, “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

What does it mean to be ‘with the Lord’?

“With the Lord . . .” What does it mean to be with the Lord?

Too often, we are eager to jump to the “mercy” and the “redemption,” parts, without first remembering that there is a qualifying clause -- with the Lord. “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” Both in the First Reading of this past Sunday from the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 37:12-14) and in the Gospel (Jn 11:1-45), we are reminded that prior to Jesus’ coming there was already belief in God’s redemption. Indeed, some portions of the Jewish people even believed in the bodily resurrection.

Ezekiel related God’s promise that He would open the graves of His people, and have them rise . . . that He would put His spirit in them so that they would live. This passage, along with others from Isaiah and Daniel, led many Jews to believe in the resurrection of the body. And Martha, the sister of Lazarus, seems to have shared in this belief. When in the Gospel, Lazarus dies, Martha goes to Jesus, begging His help and intercession with God, that her brother might remain with them.

Jesus tells Martha, “your brother will rise,” and she responds, “yes, I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” And what does Jesus say? “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Jesus makes clear that what He is doing is different from all that came before. In one fell swoop, He confirms the bodily resurrection and makes clear that the Resurrection is to come through Him. “I AM the resurrection and the life,” He proclaims, “and whoever believes in me…will never die!”

To this Martha professes her faith, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” This woman of faith knew all along what she was doing. She ran to Jesus begging His intercession to save her brother. She ran to Jesus to be with Him. She professed her faith in Him, witnessing to the world that she knew He was doing something different. It was not enough for Jesus that she believed in the resurrection as it was understood at that time; Jesus asked of her that she profess her belief that He was the Christ, the Son of God . . . the resurrection and the life.

Mercy and redemption

There is a tendency for many Catholics to presume upon the mercy and redemption promised by Jesus. “God’s love is unconditional,” the thinking goes, “so it doesn’t matter what I do.” Unfortunately this leads many to believe that it is no longer important to remain “with the Lord.”

Martha did not simply sit where she was, thinking, “I know Jesus . . . He’ll take care of things when the time comes.” She ran to Him, she begged His help, she professed her faith . . . and then she called her sister, Mary, to do the same.

Being “with the Lord,” requires something of us. It requires us to stop what we are doing, to run to Jesus, to beg His help, to profess our faith, and to invite others to do the same.

Being “with the Lord,” is not something we do casually on Sundays, by going to Mass. It requires a change in our lives, it requires inconveniencing ourselves, running to Jesus. It requires a life of prayer and conversation with the Lord. It requires our profession of faith in all that Jesus is . . . even if that does not mesh with what the prevailing attitude is around us.

Recall that Martha may not have been in the majority by proclaiming her belief in the bodily resurrection at all; she certainly would have been an oddball in professing her belief that Jesus was the resurrection.

Being “with the Lord,” means taking the step of inviting others to Him. Being, “with the Lord,” is not something we can do casually.

Nor does being “with the Lord,” mean failing to suffer. Jesus does not preserve Martha and Mary from the suffering they are undergoing as they mourn their brother; that remains. But Jesus suffers with them, and as an example of what He desires for all those who remain with Him, He raises Lazarus and frees him from the ties of death. Jesus offers mercy and fullness of redemption to those who remain with Him.

“With the Lord there is mercy . . . ” What is the mercy that is promised to those who remain “with the Lord?” Often times, God’s mercy is wrongly understood as a sort of “check,” or “barrier” on the proper exercise of God’s justice.

In other words, it’s presumed that there will be no judgment from God, because “God’s Mercy” will prevail and He won’t be able to judge us . . . He’ll just give us a pass. This understanding not only gets God’s mercy wrong, but His justice too.

God, who is perfect in His judgment, will make certain that all is balanced at the end of the time, and that wrongs are righted. In His judgment, we will find a perfect exercise of justice.

However, we will also find a perfect expression of His mercy, his unfailing love even in the midst of suffering. God will not abandon those who desire to be with Him; His love remains.

In His mercy, Jesus remains with Martha and Mary; He suffers with them. In His mercy Jesus remains with Lazarus. The suffering that comes as a result of original sin, with death, still remains and affects them, but the Lord remains with those who wish to remain with the Lord. His mercy is an unfailing exercise of His love, even through suffering.

And so we must beg God for His mercy, for His love, that despite our turning from Him so often, that He will remain with us . . . even in our suffering. This is the witness that (soon-to-be-Saint) John Paul the Great offered to us, both in his life, but also in the gift of promoting devotion to the Divine Mercy.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Blessed John Paul the Great, listening to the revelation that came to St. Faustina Kowalska, and recognizing the needs of our time, asked us to turn to Jesus, especially on the Second Sunday of Easter, to beg Him to remain with us. This is why he asked that the devotion be celebrated everywhere around the world, and why so many of our parishes mark the occasion so beautifully.

If you do not know the devotion to the Divine Mercy, I encourage you to look into it, to run out and meet Jesus, to ask for Him to remain with you, even in your suffering.

If your parish offers this devotion, I encourage you to take part. If it does not undertake the devotion on the Second Sunday of Easter, perhaps you should offer to organize it next year, and you can certainly join at the Bishop O’Connor Center that afternoon, as some wonderful organizers have taken it upon themselves to provide this devotion for several years now.

“With the Lord there is . . . fullness of redemption.” We beg God’s mercy, His remaining with us, and we beg His redemption, we beg for Him to make sense of our existence, and to give us that life which He desires for us. In Christ’s redemption we see the fulfillment of all that we might hope for and all that God desires for us. We see love -- the love for which we were created!

In his first encyclical, which was focused entirely on the topic of redemption, Redemptor Hominis, Blessed John Paul the Great expresses this reality about redemption and love, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

Christ’s redemption, which we will reflect upon more in the Easter Season, is the full expression of His love, and it makes sense of all else in this world. In fact, we cannot make sense of anything without it. But to receive His love, His mercy, His redemption, we must remain with Him. “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

Let us remain with Him, as we prepare our commemorations of Christ’s Passion, and of Holy Week. Let us be active in running to Jesus, in asking His assistance, in professing our faith in Him, and in inviting others to do the same.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Praised be Jesus Christ!