Harden not your hearts, grow in Christ Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 -- 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,

As you can see elsewhere in this issue of the Catholic Herald, I was recently blessed to be with a large number of our young women and men during “Frassati Fest.”

It was a joy to be with so many young people excited about their faith, and who were willing to make the sacrifice to gather. I also have to give my special thanks to Lindsay Becher and all those who worked so hard to put the weekend together.

During the Sunday Mass I celebrated with those great young people, I reflected on the readings of the day, and I’d like to share a bit of my reflections here, adapted slightly for print.

Beautiful message

The Scriptures of the day leave us with a beautiful message which we can take back into our homes and which have, not surprisingly, three points.

The first point was repeated in the Psalm (Ps 95) over and over again: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.”

Now what does that really mean? What does “today” mean? It doesn’t simply mean Sunday, Feb. 1, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. “Today” means our whole time redeemed by Christ in this world, before this world passes away.

“Tomorrow” refers to the great heavenly rest, when this world has passed away. So, the Psalmist is writing, “harden not your hearts,” while it is still today! Today is a long time, but it is not endless; there is a limit to “today,” and so there is an urgency there. “Harden not your hearts while it is still today.”

 

Cultural temptations

What is the main way that our culture and our society tempt you to harden your hearts? The main way is all the peer pressure that so many people and the culture force on you, to be politically correct. To be pro-choice! To be pro-gay “marriage”! To be pro-euthanasia! All of those anti-life forces in the world throw a lot of peer pressure at you, so that you will harden your hearts against anything that smacks of being politically incorrect or unpopular.

The more popular our message is and the more everybody likes to hear what we have to say, the more likely our hearts are hardened.

Sometimes people will say to me about this or that priest, “There’s nobody that doesn’t love him!” And I say, that’s interesting, because there were many who didn’t love Jesus. There were many who walked away from Him. Is it such a good thing that everybody loves the one sent to teach the Word of God? Is that such a good thing?

Even Jesus did not receive the “praise” that everyone loves him. When Jesus preached the Truth with love, yet with strength, many said, “The things that he tells us are too much for us (Jn 6:60)!” And many of Jesus’ disciples walked away.

If everybody loves you, chances are you are very politically correct and that means your heart is very hardened against accepting the Word of God as a whole. And we certainly do have a lot of political correctness in the city of Madison and in the Diocese of Madison. And so you and I have to work together to tell the Truth (which is not politically correct) with a great deal of love, so that the hearts that are hardened might be warmed and opened. That’s the first point.

Given gifts to ‘fight’

The second point is that we have the power to do that in Jesus Christ, because we are baptized and we are either confirmed or about to be confirmed. And you have received, or you are going to receive, the Holy Spirit unto courage and strength and wisdom -- everything you need so that your heart will never be hardened! You will have it!

And then, when you are tempted to have a hardened heart, when you’re tempted to be politically correct to the detriment of the Truth, you say to the Lord, “You gave me those special gifts at Baptism and Confirmation, I demand, Lord, that you stir up those gifts in me right now!”

You pray with a demand. You don’t pray like a wimp. You say boldly, as one who believes in the gifts of God, “You gave me those gifts, Lord, in Baptism and Confirmation, now stir them up!”

Imagine how powerful those gifts are. These gifts stir up the presence of Christ within us. And when people meet Christ, strongly present in us, what happens? Not only are their hearts opened, rather than hardened, but even the demons, when they come across somebody who is really living out his or her Baptism or Confirmation, even the demons confess that Jesus is God!

The presence of Christ

That’s what happened in the Gospel of this Sunday (Mk 1:21-28)! “You are the Son of God,” they said! “Stay away from us!” Even the demons confess the Truth of Christ when they are presented with the courage and wisdom of Christ present in and through you, when your Baptism and Confirmation are “activated” and you are really close to Christ.

And Jesus Christ is what these days you have been together are all about! Being close to Jesus Christ is what it is all about! And being close to Jesus while it is still today . . . before tomorrow, before heaven, the great Sabbath rest.

And so, you must get close to Christ -- through Confession, Mass (daily Mass if you can), and daily prayer (giving yourself quiet time away from the all the noise that the world presents you with, so that you can pray for the world).

You become so close to Jesus and the Holy Spirit received at Baptism and Confirmation, that if the demons were to run across you, they would confess Jesus Christ! Now that is powerful evangelization! When the demons are driven to confess Jesus Christ, as they were in the Gospel.

Christ as part of your life

And the last point, as you try to grow close to Christ in holiness and to fight off the temptation to be politically correct at the expense of the Truth, the last point is your vocation.

We hear about that in the Second Reading (1 Cor 7:32-35) which says, the married man and the married woman have to worry about his wife or her husband. But, the man or woman who remains unmarried and gives their heart to the Lord, only has to worry about the Lord. So it’s better only to have to worry about the Lord. That’s what St. Paul says.

The marriage that St. Paul is talking about is marriage apart from being a Sacrament -- marriage between a husband and a wife only.

In marriage the Sacrament, we mean a union between the husband and wife and Jesus. And that is the problem today. Young people entering into marriage do not see it as between themselves and Jesus. They don’t see Christ as the third party. Now, for those who are married today who do see Jesus as the third party and have their lives focused on Him, marriage brings them closer to Christ.

And giving your life completely to God in Christ through celibacy is another kind of a gift, a special gift that’s not for most people. It is a higher calling especially for those who are called to the priesthood and the consecrated life.

Becoming closer to Christ

Most of you are going to be called to draw closer to Christ through marriage, but you must remember what your marriage is all about -- drawing closer to Christ!

It’s not about spending as much time as possible at the Sandals resort or wherever, to undertake marriage as an eternal honeymoon, free from reality. The life of eternal honeymoon in this world is where people go to harden their hearts, or to feel alright despite the fact that they’re going through lives with hardened hearts; for those who are moving from one pleasure to the next; they’re not going to Sandals to find Jesus Christ.

They never show people on the beach saying the Rosary in those commercials. They don’t want you to think that’s what’s going on at the Sandals. They want you to think it’s a place of an eternal honeymoon, where there is no need to worry about the Truth.

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts! Whether you’re called to marriage, or you’re called to the priesthood or the consecrated life -- and many of you are who are here -- stay close to Christ with Mass, Confession, and prayerful silence every day.

And stay away from what is simply politically correct. Living for what is politically correct is the great corruptor of hearts.

In this time together, Jesus has stirred up in you the graces of Baptism, the graces of Confession, the graces of Holy Communion, and for many of you the graces of Confirmation! When you go home, do not forget about the grace that has been stirred up.

And help those around you not to harden their hearts. Remind them that they have time to change, to get really close to Christ while it is still today. That closeness to Christ, coming through you, will make even the Devil, who has invaded our world, confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father! Praised be Jesus Christ!