By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, May 31, 2010

God’s Generous Love; Our Generous Response

I am edified whenever I witness selfless acts of generosity on the part of God’s people. This past week contained many.

At St. Joseph’s College on Tuesday I gathered with about 30 priests, who are here from other countries to participate in our enculturation programme. This course is designed and offered to help them understand and adapt to our culture as they prepare to serve in various dioceses of Western Canada. Their generosity is remarkable! They have left behind family, friends and the familiar in order to serve their brothers and sisters who would otherwise not have access to a priest and the sacraments.

On Wednesday evening I gathered with about 500 Knights of Columbus and their wives to welcome Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and his wife Dorian, who traveled to Edmonton to participate in Nothing More Beautiful the following night. In the course of the dinner the Knights presented me with a pledge for more than one million dollars toward our Cornerstone of Faith campaign, which is in support of the construction of our new St. Joseph’s Seminary and Newman Theological College buildings. What an extraordinary gift! It was made possible by the generous sacrifice of both time and treasure on the part of those who gave and those who led the effort, especially past State Deputy Wally Streit. The Archdiocese extends its heartfelt thanks to all!

Earlier that day I visited Notre Dame High School in Red Deer, where I visited classrooms, celebrated Eucharist and had lunch with the youth leadership team. There I saw great generosity as priests, teachers and youth ministers made themselves available to the students, and as the students made time for one another. The energy and enthusiasm of the students on the youth leadership team was such that merely being with them left me exhausted!

Thursday evening was the final session of Year 2 of our Nothing More Beautiful series. Deeply reflective presentations were offered by Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, and Mr. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. In the midst of their many and weighty responsibilities, each of these leaders made a generous sacrifice of time to prepare their talks and travel to Edmonton for their delivery. The focus of their reflections was “Jesus Christ: Revelation of the Trinity”.

Saturday morning was the occasion for the ordination to the permanent diaconate of three men: William Bell, Guy Germain and Antonio Obleada. Once their call was confirmed by the Church, they generously offered their lives to the service of God’s people through the diaconal ministry. Generous also is the support given to them by their wives and families.

Twice this week I celebrated Confirmation, as I have been for the past number of weeks. The celebrations occurred at St. Charles and St. Alphonsus parishes, both of which are located in Edmonton. As I invariably do with respect to this sacrament, I witnessed the support given to the Confirmation candidates by their pastors and catechists, who very generously give of their time and talent to prepare and accompany the young people entrusted to their care. This preparation involves many hours of their time, and they give it willingly and joyfully.

The Confirmation celebration at St. Alphonsus parish took place in the context of a pastoral visit that I made to that faith community this past weekend. The generosity of the parishioners there is spilling out beyond the parish into the community. As part of the effort to house the homeless of our city, they are reaching out with fellow community members to people recently housed in order to offer relationship and support. A sense of belonging, of social inclusion, is essential for all of us, and the parishioners are generously offering this to those who are transitioning from the street to a home.

Of course, such acts of generosity are happening all the time, often unseen. I was just particularly struck by the abundance I was able to witness personally this past week. What is its source?

The font of our own acts of generosity is the superabundant, indeed limitless, love of God. Yesterday the Church celebrated the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Reflection upon the revelation of Jesus Christ under the inspiration of the promised Spirit of truth, who guides us into all truth (cf. John 16:13), has led the Church to the awareness, and to the joyful proclamation, that God, though One, is a Trinity of Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a perfect communion of love. This Love has created us, not because we are needed by God – God is perfect and needs nothing – but because God wants us. From among all creatures, the human being alone is created by God for its own sake. This is what it means to say that we are created “in the image and likeness of God” (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 355-361).

Furthermore, Love saved us when we had sinned. God the Father sent His only Son to assume our human nature and, in that nature, to die and rise again, that we might live. In order to help us live in union with His Son, the Father sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5). In other words, we live from of the generous love of God, who has expressed that love through His own self-communication into history and into our lives. Touched by this Love one cannot help but be generous in return, a generosity which is expressed in self-sacrifice and self-gift for the sake of others.

Let us all be attentive this coming week to the many opportunities God will give us to be generous to others, and let us be quick to respond as a reflection of the super-generous love He ceaselessly pours out upon us.