Responding, like Mary, to God's will for us Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Mar. 26, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

bishop's column logoDear Friends,

Each year on March 25th, we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. We celebrate that day when the Archangel Gabriel came and said to Mary, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you . . .Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus," to which Mary replied, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word." Mary was presented with God's will for her, and she offered her profound "yes!"

Like Mary, each of us is asked, in our own way, to say yes to God's will for us. In reason and in faith, and sometimes by supernatural light, God calls each of us to serve Him and His Church, through our specific Vocation. As bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and lay people, in different ways, we are all given the mission to build up Christ's Church.

But how? What is your role and what is mine? In this matter, as in so many others, it is helpful, and even necessary, for us to return to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

The Council outlines clearly the ways in which, through our Vocation, we are to serve the Church. In this short column, I'll not be able to go into each at length, but I would recommend, in these last three weeks of Lent, that all of us would be better off were we to take the time to study the Council documents, with specific attention to how we are called to serve the Church in our different Vocations.

Preach the Gospel and teach the truth

Since it is my own Vocation, I tend to reflect upon the obligations of the bishop, and Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, is clear about the priority for bishops:

"Among the principal duties of bishops, the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place. For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith (Lumen Gentium

Thanks be to God for that clarity! My priority, as bishop, is to preach the Gospel and to teach all the people of the diocese. But how do I do that? The Vatican II document continues:

"[Bishops] bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent (Lumen Gentium, 25)."

The above paragraph provides a great deal of relief for me as a bishop, for it makes clear that my mission does not so much depend on me and my own talents, but upon the Revelation of God.Yes, I have to work to make that Revelation bear fruit and I have to be vigilant in warding off errors, but ultimately it all points back to Christ. As I have said in the past, most of my work involves being a glue -- I must bring the people of this diocese together and glue them to the Holy Father and to the will of God. It's as simple as that.

And summing up the work of our priests is even easier in that regard, for the priests, Lumen Gentium says, are "prudent cooperators with the [bishop]."All the priests are bound together in their priesthood with the bishop, making them co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord. They are called to make the bishop present to all the people (Lumen Gentium, 28). If that is the case, then clearly their first responsibility should be the same as the bishop's -- to preach the Gospel and to teach the truth!

And what is the role of our religious brothers and sisters? Well, primary to them, as I've said in the past and as the Council states, is Holiness in the world. Through their devotion to poverty, chastity, and obedience, our religious sisters and religious brothers "implant and strengthen the

Kingdom of God" throughout the world and in individual souls. The particular charisms of various religious communities are different, but their goal is always the same -- to dedicate themselves wholly to building up the Kingdom of God!

Calling to the lay apostolate

For the most part, you who are reading this have a particular calling to the lay apostolate.What a great group of men and women we have, who are coming forward to "assist and complement"my ministry and that of our great priests.

Clearly, there are a great many direct ways that lay people can serve the Church and their individual parishes, but your key role is simply and authentically living the Gospels in the midst of your day-to-day lives. The laity are called "by their very vocation, to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God (Lumen Gentium, 31)."

As the Council points out, you live in the world, in your various professions and occupations, and you encounter, in the various ordinary circumstances of family and social life, the work and presence of the Creator.And in the midst of all of that, you, yourselves, are called to be a sanctifying presence, a "leaven" from within.You are called to reach out to evangelize and sanctify your fellow men and women, through the spirit of the Gospel, in accordance with the mind of the Church (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 2,6).And you are called to build a just society and a just state through politics, as Pope Benedict XVI has said.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it should be clear that it all comes back to obedience: obedience to the will of God the Father -- for Mary, for Jesus Himself, for the Saints (because it is only in their obedience to the Father that they are Saints), and for us as well. It is not blind obedience to anyone's will. Rather, it is obedience in faith, just like the Blessed Virgin Mary.Our obedience is not blind whatsoever, for we are walking in the light of God -- by faith! Mary's obedience to the will of God, her free consent to give life to the Redeemer, to share His life, to suffer with Him under the cross, and to sacrifice Him for the sake of the redemption of humankind, is the model we should follow as the Church, and individually.

Praised be Jesus Christ!