Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As I sit down to write these words, my thoughts are rather more focused on a number of other things, certain distractions you might say. I am now in the midst of completing my thesis towards the licentiate in canon law, which also means that my studies here in the Eternal City are soon to conclude. At the same time, several friends are making plans to visit Rome while I am still here, which turns my attention to the refreshing of my memory in order to be something of a decent guide.
Taken together, the writing of the thesis, the soon completed studies, and the coming
visits of friends, all turn my thoughts toward home. Though there can be some truth in what Emily Dickenson said, that “where thou art, that is home,” it is not quite the same as being in the landscape and among the people with whom you have grown up and where so many memories – whether joyful or sorrowful – have been made. For me, that place is Quincy, the little Gem City shining above the Mississippi River. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” Soon my feet will be home.
These happy thoughts turn my thoughts further to those wise and holy words of Saint Paul, namely, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). To put it another way, our home is not here on this earth, which is why the Lord Jesus said of his disciples, “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world” (John 17:16). But as it is, we are not yet at home, though we long for it so. This recognition led Saint Augustine to pray in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” If each of us is honest, we know his words to be true (1.1).
Because of the original sin – of choosing our wills over God, of viewing him as a rival and acting against him – the gates of Paradise were closed to us (cf. Genesis 3:23-24). How, then, can we enter home, how can we enter the presence of God, to that place where our hearts love? Only with the key of the Cross, the fruits of which the Lord Jesus entrusted to his Church.
We find ourselves now in the midst of the Jubilee of Mercy and on the threshold, if you will, of the celebrations of Holy Week and the Triduum when we will strive, with the grace of God, to enter into the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee, Misericordiae Vultis (The Face of Mercy), Pope Francis says: A Jubilee also entails the granting of indulgences. This practice will acquire an even more important meaning in the Holy Year of Mercy. God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church. Thus God is always ready to forgive, and he never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. Nevertheless, all of us know well the experience of sin. We know that we are called to perfection (cf. Mt 5:48), yet we feel the heavy burden of sin. Though we feel the transforming power of grace, we also feel the effects of sin typical of our fallen state. Despite being forgiven, the conflicting consequences of our sins remain. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins, which he truly blots out; and yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger even than this. It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin…. To gain an indulgence is to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere. Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in his merciful “indulgence” (22). Let each of us, then, seek to enter fully into this year of jubilee, into this year of mercy, that having repented of and confessed our sins, we may experience the fullness of the God’s love so that, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, we make find ourselves at home in the Father’s house.
As I look forward to being with you at the Western Catholic Union Convention this August, I wish you and your loved ones a spiritually fruitful Holy Week and a very happy Easter!
Peace and Joy,
Reverend Daren J. Zehnle, K.H.S.
WCU National Spiritual Advisor
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,