Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we continue to celebrate this season of Easter, we give praise and thanks to God for all his generous gifts to us. The weather turns fine this week and, perhaps, will even stay that way for a while!
We live in largely undisturbed peace and wealth, here in Iowa, and we can attend our churches and pray in public without fear of arrest or worse. These and so many other good things are the gift of God, freely-given and not earned by us. We must cultivate deeper gratitude and humility for all these good things, which are ultimately fruits of our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection.
I am particularly grateful this week for the safety and welcome Pope Francis was afforded on his recent trip to Egypt. As you know, while Egypt is currently more stable, free, and tolerant of minorities than most countries of the Middle East, there have been numerous terrorist incidents there.
Pope Francis courageously spoke there about peace and about the love of God and neighbor, which is the active expression of our inner faith and discipleship. He reminded everyone that true and lasting peace can only be built on a foundation of genuine charity, which is built up, brick by brick as it were, in the daily actions of people living together.
Actions which express one’s willingness to accept the humanity of the other, in spite of differences, even very great differences in world views, do indeed contribute to peace. These actions, of course, must be mutual, not one-sided, for peace to grow and become the normative state of affairs.
We benefit from such a peace in our own country. It is, as I said, a gift from God, but it is also one which we have worked, suffered, and sacrificed to make happen over the centuries. As disciples of Christ, we have envisioned, and do still envision, a culture in which Christ’s peace is indeed normative.
The personal root of such a culture of peace, of welcome, of toleration of the other in spite of great differences, is not the moral relativism our secular culture has come to promote. Moral relativism does not promote peace. It seeks to make all ideas equally important. We know this really makes good moral values useless.
For example, false moral relativism makes it possible to conceive that the greatest violations of peace, such as abortion, should be tolerable, and therefore acceptable. This is what Pope Benedict XVI decried as the “tyranny of relativism.”
Peace is not achieved by pretending that ideas don’t matter. No, the personal root of a peaceful society is the humility to admit when one is wrong or mistaken.
As St. Benedict said so memorably, humility is the root of all virtue. Without humility, we cannot imagine that another who sees life differently than us might still see some aspect of the truth. Without humility, we cannot imagine that Christ died not only for us, but also for “them.” Without humility, we cannot forgive or seek forgiveness.
As I conclude this letter today, I want to mention a “Letter to the Editor” that appears in this week’s edition of The Catholic Globe. In my letter on April 6, 2017, I wrote about the Liturgies of the Easter Triduum and how we relate to them today.
I did not intend to harm or cause concern about the fine ministry of our priests and deacons. My intent was to challenge all of us (me included) to examine our ministry and to ask the Lord in his great mercy to help us serve you better. I have spoken personally to both our priests and deacons and apologized if my words hurt them in any way. Please continue to pray for me and all our priests and deacons.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City