Death, Lent and Divine Mercy

| April 14, 2011
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

Bishop Bill Bullock, bishop emeritus of Madison, died on Sunday, April 3, after a short illness.

The bishop was born here near Maple Lake, and was ordained a priest of this archdiocese in 1952.  He served as headmaster of St. Thomas Academy, then pastor of St. John the Baptist in Excelsior and later as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Minneapolis. He was named an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 1980, bishop of Des Moines in 1987 and bishop of Madison in 1993.

Wonderful man

I have met Bishop Bullock on numerous occasions and he was always one of the most positive and affirming individuals I could imagine. He is an outstanding reflection of the vitality of the Catholic faith in this archdiocese.

The significant contribution he made to the church by his life, he did as one of our native sons.

The passing of this great man of faith gives us a privileged opportunity to reflect upon the reality of death, not for its own sake, but rather, as a significant prompting to revisit the status of our relationship with God, since this is, in fact, the purpose underlying the whole season of Lent. Death has a way of focusing our attention in a manner that few other events can.

In the analysis of our relationship with the true and living God during Lent, it is critical to examine the question of mercy, both the mercy of God, as well as the mercy we have shown or not shown to others.

The soon-to-be beatified Pope John Paul II left us a strong legacy on the Divine Mercy of God.  He told us:

“For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name and, at the same time, the specific manner in which love is revealed and effected vis-à-vis the reality of evil that is in the world, affecting and besieging man. . . .”

Our Lenten works of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (works of charity) are really meant to join our hearts to the urging of the psalmist, who advises, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.”

Our deeply held conviction about God’s mercy leads to the declaration we make each Sunday in the Creed when we profess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

What a comfort it is to know of God’s forgiveness made available in Christ Jesus. But notice that the Creed does not limit our belief to just God’s forgiveness; it also includes the forgiveness we extend to others as well as ask of others.  Often it is easier to ask forgiveness of God than it is of the brother or sister whom we have hurt. Yet the two go hand in glove.

Opportunity for penance

And that is why, in this last column before Holy Week, I join Deacon Jordan Samson of Sioux Falls, S.D., (a fourth-year seminarian at The St. Paul Seminary), who in last week’s Catholic Spirit urged everyone who has not yet gone to the celebration of penance/reconciliation this Lent to do so.

As the deacon points out, confession is indeed difficult because our sins are embarrassing and shameful. But facing up to the admission of our guilt allows us to experience the freedom that Jesus desires for us. As Deacon Samson writes, “Humbly admitting sin is not for the purpose of self-abasement, but for restoring our true identity and dignity in Christ.”

I cannot think of a better description of Easter than that last statement. In the confession of our sins to a priest, we truly experience the Divine Mercy that is Jesus Christ himself.

God love you! Have a blessed Holy Week!


Category: Only Jesus

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