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Instill hearts with committed foundation for paschal joy

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As these late winter days finally begin to warm and lengthen perceptibly, we look forward with renewed hope to the return of sunshine, green leaves, and the absence of snow. Although we may have doubted it for a while, it seems this winter really isn’t unending. I hope I’m not speaking too soon!

The turn of the season is a kind of conversion, which should remind us of what Lent is about. As we continue our interior preparation for the renewed hope and joy of Christ’s Resurrection, we anticipate also how His light brings rebirth to the barrenness of our frozen hearts. The warming rays of His love, proven for all time on the altar of the Cross, melts the hard refusal to love which lurks somewhere inside each of us (see Ps 147:17-9). The sap of faith, urged on by our Lenten disciplines, begins to rise within our hearts, soon to put forth green shoots of Easter joy.

Each hour, each day, each season follows this same pattern. Sometimes we tire of our jobs, weary of our duties, or take for granted the people who love us. Whenever the enthusiastic flush of eager hope fades into colder embers, we need to renew our commitment, just as we are called to do each Lent. Renewal is always, in part, a return to the basics of our Faith – prayer, fasting, and sharing; Confession, Holy Mass, and the sacraments, liturgies, and sacramentals that conform us to Christ; practical devotions like the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet that support our love for God and each other. A few moments of prayer can be like a little Lent, leading to a new burst of hope, of love, and therefore a new energy to face the burdens of the day.

In the same way, the season of Lent is not meant only to lead only to Easter Day, but to instill in our hearts the committed foundation for an abiding Paschal joy. The turning seasons will lead back to winter’s darkness again, but the brightness of joy in our hearts should never grow dim in any season.

Health Care Reform

In this sense, I remain hopeful against all odds that our government can come to its senses about health care reform. My brother bishops and I have repeatedly reminded Congress and the President of the minimum standards of just health care – equally accessible to all, affordable and sustainably funded, and protecting both the dignity of each human life from natural conception to natural death, and the obligations of conscience of all medical personnel. Other measures of prudence are implied by these, as I have explained already. Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree with and strongly support these measures of justice. Many health care professionals, individually and through professional organizations, have spoken out in support of such reasonable ends.

We can recognize, then, that the intransigence of a small fraction of some politicians, bent at seemingly any cost on an ideological “victory” for government funding of abortion, is neither the will of the people, nor the actual benefit of any reasonable health care reform. The light of Truth has already shown this faction for what it is. No one outside that faction any longer believes the lie that the Senate’s health care reform legislation does not fund and promote abortion and other intrinsic moral evils. If by chance they succeed in manipulating our democratic processes into passing this legislation, it will prove for them a victory with huge lose for the common good.

I pray with hope, therefore, that calmer heads and clearer eyes will prevail in the end. You can help by contacting your congressional representatives to insist that unambiguous language like that of the annual Hyde amendment, or the health care Stupak amendment, must be part of the current reconciliation process. You can also help by continuing to pray daily with our 40 Days for Life Lenten campaign. Our shared commitment to this spiritual battle can and does make a tangible difference. Devotion to the truth is never without fruit, and even silent witness forces evil to attempt to justify itself – which it can never succeed in doing, in the end.

Let this season of Lent be for us all a season of hope, secure in our faith amid the tempests of this world. Let our commitment to Christ be renewed in every facet of our lives, especially in our public witness, by living His Truth without compromise or surrender. Please pray for one another, for me and my fellow bishops, and for our elected government leaders. Please pray especially our priests in this Year for Priests and our many “Elect” and Candidates for the Easter sacraments. Know that I pray daily for all of you.
Remember to “spring forward” this weekend so you won’t be late for Sunday Mass!

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

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