During Lent, stop whining and listen to God more Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Feb. 19, 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,

It’s hard to believe Lent is upon us again, but here it is! And though it might not always be our first response to that reality, I wish to say first, “thanks be to God for that!”

Thanks be to God who in His wisdom, expressed through the Sacred Tradition of His Church, has given us this time each year to focus intensely upon our lives and specifically upon that which remains unresolved in our conversion, and to seek repentance and renewal on the way to Calvary and to the Resurrection.

Reflection leads to gratitude

The readings of last week, and the First Reading (Jb 7:1-4, 6-7) in particular, provided a starting point in my own Lenten reflection. It’s a reflection about Job and about whining, and it’s a reflection that leads to gratitude, thus: thanks be to God!

Job, as we know from his story, had been a very wealthy man. He had everything. The devil made a bet with God, that if Job lost everything, he would also lose his faith. So, Job lost everything. And in Chapter 7, we come upon Job after he lost everything. What was Job doing in that reading? He was whining. Go back and read it if you don’t remember. (Job actually whines for about 20 chapters, so it’s hard to miss.)

That reading from the Book of Job is about whining. And that is a very important thing for us, no matter our situation (we don’t have to lose everything to feel like Job sometimes).

Everyday whining

What goes on in families? People look at what they don’t have, rather than what they do have, and they whine! Not just children, but adults too -- people whine.

What happens at work? Employees whine about the boss. And then the bosses get together and they whine about the employees.

And in the parish, the people whine about the priest. The priest says, “Don’t whine about me, whine about the bishop!” Some do. And priests do whine about the bishop themselves. And when the bishops get together, boy do they ever whine about the priests! We’re all guilty of it to greater and lesser degrees.

Whining in our culture

So whining is the very stuff of our contemporary culture, because the human heart somehow fixates on what’s wrong or what we don’t have. And we have to whine!

Now, Job whined -- he whined up a storm -- but he didn’t lose his faith. And in the end, he got all of his wealth back.

What changed? Job first had a change of heart; he saw who he really was before God -- someone who deserved nothing.

Job whines to the Lord, and to anyone who will listen, about all that is wrong and eventually the Lord thunders back, “If you want to know the reason for what I do or what I allow, if you want to demand answers of me, first let me ask you a few questions! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth? Did I consult you about the size of the bin to store the snow? (And so on.)” God was taunting him. He said, “Tell me if you know! Where were you?”

Receiving God’s message

And Job finally got the message that he was nothing and that he was entitled to nothing. He repented, to dust and ashes, and in return, he got everything back! He put aside his whining to recognize that God was God, and he was not, and God blessed him.

We need to realize that apart from God, we are, can do, and deserve nothing. If we get back to that, then we don’t whine, and further, we realize all that we do have. We only whine when we focus on what we don’t have and somehow think we have a right to what we don’t have.

And that’s another big theme in our culture. If somebody wants something, the next thing they do is put together a group to demonstrate that they have a right to it. (And I’m not talking about things that are actual, fundamental rights, I’m talking about wants.)

There is so much whining in our culture; even at the highest political levels. Both Democrats and Republicans do a lot of whining, focusing on what we don’t have, and just under the surface lays the conviction that we have a right to that which we don’t have -- that we’re entitled to it. And that makes us whine all the more!

The right to nothing

Eventually Job came to understand and came to confess to God, that which he did not understand before. He said to God, “Lord, apart from you I am nothing and can do nothing. When I didn’t understand that, I whined. Now I see and I repent to dust and ashes.”

That needs to be the story for each one of us. And that desperately needs to be the story of our culture. In our culture, people think that they have a right to everything they want. Any sense of personal responsibility is cast aside. If I want it, I have a right to it!

Realizing that all we have is from the Lord brings a great deal of gratitude, peace, hope, and freedom.

Jesus desires to bring that freedom and that realization to each of us, and to all women and men.

Without God we have nothing

It is that freedom that says, “without God I am nothing, and have nothing, and can do nothing, but with Him and in Him I am a precious child, provided for at every turn. I have all I need, and can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” Who can whine about that?

Let us pray for one another and for our culture this Lent!

Let us remain focused on our own nothingness outside of God, and thus upon all we have with God. And let us make a resolution to stop the whining, replacing it with thanksgiving for all that the Lord is doing in our lives.

Praised be Jesus Christ!