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Bishop encourages: ‘Diligently seek Christ’

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May the Lord continue to give you every grace and peace with His blessing! The world looks on Memorial Day almost as the “official beginning” of summer. Certainly we can celebrate what Memorial Day reminds us: the natural and the Christian virtues at the root of our nation’s history, and the generous service and sacrifice of the countless men and women who have fought and died to preserve life and liberty. But for me, summer always seems to begin with the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, two weeks after Pentecost. The six-month trajectory of following Christ’s life that began in Advent now seems to close. So I always try to let the abundant character of Christ’s love and mercy, so vividly displayed in devotion to His most Sacred Heart, color our following of the cycle of His life and ministry until Christ the King (and Thanksgiving).

SACRED HEART OF JESUS

Last Friday, I was particularly moved to reflect again on the saving love of our Lord. Devotion to and worship of the Sacred Heart is a great gift to the Church, and one that is still so very appropriate in the face of the evils of our day. The Sacred Heart stands for the love of our Savior, the love that “did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but emptied himself, and took the form of a slave” (Phil 2:6-7) in the Incarnation. This same love was “moved with pity” at the death of His friend Lazarus and the grief of Martha and Mary (Jn 11:33). This same love freely chose to endure His Passion and death for our sake, so that we might be transformed by it. This same love is poured out for us in the Holy Eucharist every day. Jesus, in His love for us, does not merely want us to be saved, but does everything necessary for us, at every moment!

In the image of the Sacred Heart, we depict Jesus’s desire for us and willingness to give His entire being up for us in the visible wound. The crown of thorns reminds us of all that He suffered for us in His bitter Passion. And the dripping Blood is the same that was poured out for us on the Cross, and is poured out on the altar in the sacrifice of the Mass. Like the holy Rosary, the image of the Sacred Heart is an icon of our Lord’s infinite love and mercy, and invites us to “treasure all these things” in our hearts.

Our devotion to the Sacred Heart can be particularly powerful. Our prayers can change our lives and the lives of those we love; prayer brings new life and new energy into our spiritual life. Our example can surprise and challenge dulled complacency. Our quiet, constant witness to the humility and joy of seeking and receiving Christ’s sweet, pure mercy can be the spark that moves ourselves and others to repentance. The more diligently we seek after Christ, the more deeply He desires to be with us: Christ in us, and we in the world, for the salvation of souls. So I urge you to pray very often the very simple prayer: “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!” Our persistence in prayer and devotion can help Him convert hearts to His saving love!

SUMMER VACATIONS

Summer is also the time when many of us can take vacations, from school and from work, and be with family and friends. Whatever kind of “time off” we can take gives us a chance to be revitalized and renewed. We all need some “time away.” Of course, we never take a vacation from our faith, and so, even when we are travelling far from home, we must still attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation (like the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Thursday, August 15). If we are taking time off from work, we should have more time for God, and so I urge you to take time to make your vacations and holidays more prayerful than your normal routine: a daily Mass, Confession, an extra Rosary or Chaplet of Mercy, solid spiritual reading. Such opportunities are not just empty piety. What we love, we spend time with. If we love God, we will want to spend more time with Him.

MODESTY

Especially with the summer’s warmer weather, we must also pay attention to dressing modestly, especially for Sunday Mass. This is another way in which the Church is a “sign of contradiction” to the false ways of the world. I do understand that it can be very difficult even to find appropriate clothing, when the world constantly seems to believe that the purpose of clothing is to advertise one’s willingness and availability for one or another of the deadly sins. But modesty is the opposite of this. When we dress modestly, we offer others the beauty of our faith. We also say to others, “I believe in your goodness; specifically, I believe you are good enough to see me as a person, not as an object.” This is a very practical and needed form of Christian charity, which when widely practiced lifts people’s minds and hearts to more noble things throughout the day. For both men and women equally, to pursue modesty is a simple and obvious way to live the faith.

I hope and pray these first weeks of the summer are and will continue to be filled with divine blessings! Please continue to pray for Pope Francis, and for me and all our priests, and for newly married couples. May God bless you most abundantly!

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless,
Bishop of Sioux City

 

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