Proclaim Good News to the spiritually poor Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison   
Thursday, Apr. 05, 2018 -- 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,

A very happy Easter to you all!

On Tuesday of Holy Week, we celebrated our Diocesan Chrism Mass. This Mass, in which I bless and consecrate all of the Holy Oils that are used throughout the diocese for the year and distribute them to each of our parishes, is also the Mass wherein the priests renew the promises they made on the day of their ordination.

In that way, it is a Mass for the whole diocese, with a particular emphasis on the role of the priest in serving the people and parishes of the diocese. It was a beautiful celebration and I was so grateful to have a “packed house” both of priests and faithful as we prayed together.

Here below are some of the words I shared with all, but directed in a particular way to our priests:

Dear friends, dear brother priests. The spirit of the Lord is upon us because He has sent us to bring good news to the poor (Is 61:1)!

And who are the poor as we look around the world? We lovingly pray for our brothers and sisters who are in deep material need. That is for sure; we don’t forget that. But, there is far greater spiritual poverty in our world that makes the material poverty seem almost like nothing -- though, it is certainly not nothing to those who experience it. And it certainly is up to us to be God’s instruments to help alleviate that poverty.

Spiritual poverty

But, it’s the spiritual poverty that needs to hear the proclamation of the Good News! The Lord has anointed us and sent us to proclaim the Good News to the spiritually poor. And who are they? They’re just about everyone.

The spiritually poor are those who have no idea what the Truth is. If you want to have some fun -- and if you do this, don’t take it too seriously -- watch an hour of Fox News Network in the evening and then immediately watch an hour of CNN . . . I think of that old song “Two Different Worlds.” We live in two different worlds -- and the world of Fox and the world of CNN cannot both be true!

And so, our spiritual poverty grows out of a sense that we have in the U.S. of each of us defining truth and of self-sufficiency; we are self-sufficient bearers of rights. It seems like every day we come up with a new right. Now we even have the right not to be offended. Imagine that! (No one thinks the bishop has a right not to be offended. But they certainly think that they have a right not to be offended.)

The truth is up for grabs and that makes for spiritual poverty; self-sufficient independence rather than dependence on God and fear of the Lord. For a period of time, we even changed the name of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, “Fear of the Lord”, in our Confirmation ritual. We changed it to “Wonder and Awe.” That was an adaptation to the culture which says: “We don’t want to fear the Lord, we don’t want dependence. We are self-sufficient. We are bearers of every right that we can think of!”

And that approach does nothing but isolate us. That’s spiritual poverty.

And we look at goodness. Goodness . . . what is good? Well, “It’s up to you to decide what’s good for you and up to me to decide what’s good for me.” The truth problem trickles down into goodness.

So now we don’t know what marriage is, and now we’re not even sure what it means to be a male or a female. People are even trying to come up with names for gender-neutral children. The one I just read was “Sigh.” Not “C-y”, but “S-i-g-h.” So, I suppose we’re supposed to say, come on over here little (sighs). That is spiritual poverty.

Loss of sense of responsibility

A sense of responsibility has been lost. As long as you have enough clout, you’re not responsible for anything. As a matter of fact, there’s a sizeable part of our population that really believes that the only one responsible for harm and evil in our world, the only one, is President Trump. He’s the perpetrator; and the rest of us are all victims.

Now, I’m not going to go anywhere near canonizing Trump, but if he is the only source of evil and harm in the world, I will eat both my hats!

And then beauty -- talk about spiritual poverty when it comes to beauty! Deformed, defaced, mangled chunks of aluminum, large ones -- that’s what often passes for art. People kid themselves that that’s beautiful.

And, with regard to music, God help us! The sounds are ugly, and the lyrics are uglier still. It’s all about self-gratification. It’s all about picking up that beat of music that appeals to the lower instincts rather than the higher emotions.

And sometimes we can have that at Mass. Let’s just skip in to that beat and let’s groove it up a bit. Lower emotions, lower instincts, not higher emotions. What is ugly is considered beautiful; it’s all mixed up.

We live in spiritual poverty -- poverty with regard to truth, goodness, responsibility, beauty -- terrible, terrible poverty. And brothers and sisters, the Spirit of the Lord is upon us because He has anointed us to bring Good News to that mess! All of us, and especially us brother priests, that’s what we’re called to do in 2018 at the Chrism Mass.

God’s plan for marriage

Now, it just so happens this year, that it’s the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae. I want to say some words about God’s beautiful plan for marriage. And dear brother priests, I don’t think we can preach this enough. There are a lot of people who say, “I never hear it, bishop.” We can’t preach enough God’s beautiful plan for marriage.

What does Humanae Vitae tell us? It says that the sacred place of sexual union between husband and wife was the gift of God, created by Him for His purpose. And His main purpose of that beautiful sexual union is the generation of new life. That’s what God’s plan involves -- the generation of new life. Beautiful!

The Holy Trinity themselves dwell in that sacred space of the sexual union of husband and wife. There doesn’t exist a more beautiful picture of that sexual union. It is so beautiful. It is of God Himself.

What has our culture done with that? Well, our culture sees sexual union as having two side effects -- side effects, not primary. One side effect is children and the other side effect is disease. And both of them can be avoided.

Now if those are side effects, what does our culture say that sexual union is all about? For the self-sufficient independent bearer of every kind of a right we can think of, what is sexual union about? It’s about pleasure.

Children: side effect. Disease: side effect. Sexual union is only about pleasure. And of course if sexual union is just about pleasure, then there can be no lasting marriage. Because what is there in that goal of pleasure that is worth pledging your life to?

As a matter of fact, most people find out if you pledge your life to that pleasure, you are denying yourself all other sorts of pleasures over there, over there, and over there. Our culture has made it all about pleasure and so there is no marriage. And so it doesn’t matter what it means to be a male and what it means to be a female. However one can get the pleasure is the name of the game. That’s a lower-instinct picture of the beauty of God’s plan.

The place where He Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit inhabits the sacred space of sexual union and where He sometimes chooses to bring forth new life, that’s beautiful!

Caring for the next generation

And, what else can we say about God’s plan for marriage, God’s plan for sexual union? We can say that in God’s plan, sexual union is all about others. It is about the next generation, and our providing for and caring for the next generation.

It’s not just about pleasure, not just about myself, but providing and caring for the next generation in light of the fact that we will die. Sexual union is about future generations, according to God’s plan, and it’s also about the reality of death. How bankrupt would it be to say it’s not about that? It’s about future generations and it’s about death. Those are Godly concerns. Our culture is concerned more with sexual acrobatics.

Dear brothers and sisters, God’s plan for marriage, where the Trinity is present in that sacred space with husband and wife, where future generations are cared about and provided for in light of death, in light of parents who know they can’t live forever, but they can hand on in this world a wonderful future legacy of children. That’s beautiful! That’s beautiful. And that beauty attracts if it is proclaimed clearly, faithfully, and forcefully.

Marriage is on the decline because we have failed to preach the beauty of marriage clearly, faithfully, forcefully.

Preach the truth

But we don’t worry about the past, we worry about the future. And as we take up our mission tonight as priests to bring good news to the poor -- especially those spiritually poor -- it’s the Word of God, the beautiful truth about marriage, with no watering down, but with great love for the beauty that is there, that’s what our mission is all about.

So, please take that to heart dear brothers as we prepare to renew our priestly promises. And let us go through the rest of this Holy Week and the rest of our priestly lives with those beautiful words in mind of Pope St. John Paul the Great as he quoted Jesus as He was heading toward the Cross in Jerusalem. Jesus said to the Apostles, “Arise! Let us be on our way.” The way to the beauty of marriage is the way to Christ, and it is the only way to redemption for a culture in great danger of turning away from redemption.

We have the grace of Holy Orders, Confirmation, Baptism, and Eucharist; we’ve got graces everywhere! Marriage can be saved as the beautiful thing it is. That’s the Good News the spiritually poor need most to hear -- whether they know it or whether they don’t.

Praised be Jesus Christ!