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


This picture shows one of the panels on the holy door at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. I have always loved it, and it speaks beautifully of the Good Shepherd reaching out to save the lost. That's the reason for hope.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Called to be Stewards of Mercy

Yesterday I had the wonderful blessing of joining with the parishioners of Paroisse St Thomas d’Aquin here in Edmonton as they celebrated their 50th anniversary. It was an occasion of great joy and thanksgiving, and an opportunity for us to reflect together on the mission that is ours as members of the Church.
We are a people to whom the Lord has entrusted the Gospel. This is our great treasure, and the Lord calls each of us to give of ourselves to make it known. We are all aware that this is a major challenge today. For this reason we are now deeply engaged in Nothing More Beautiful, our initial five-year process of reflection upon the beauty of the Gospel in order to announce it effectively and joyfully to our world.

For the task of evangelization the readings for yesterday’s liturgy are of immense importance because they take us to the very heart of the Gospel. They speak of mercy, God’s desire to have mercy on his people and give them life. They teach us that, to be heralds of the Gospel, we must be proclaimers of mercy. The experience of divine mercy makes the words of the Gospel come alive and gives hope to the people of all times, including in our day. The beauty of the Gospel transforms our hearts the moment they encounter the mercy of God revealed in Christ. The experience of mercy moves the message of the Gospel from promise to fulfillment. The wonder of forgiveness reveals the Gospel as a living word with the power to transform the world.

God the Father’s desire to forgive and give life is made abundantly clear in the Gospel passage (cf. Luke 15:1-32). Our God is not distant and indifferent to our needs. He is love, tenderness and compassion. God comes to us in Christ in order to search for the lost sheep and lost coin, and who rejoices to welcome home the son who was terribly lost. God is rich in mercy, and the warmth of his love restores to life those who receive it.

We gain insight into this new life from the experience of Saint Paul. By his own admission in the second reading, he was a grievous sinner who met the mercy of Jesus Christ (cf. 1Timothy 1:12-17). This changed his life forever. For Saint Paul, life began, true life took root and began to blossom, when the warmth of God’s merciful love, revealed in Christ, touched his heart, a heart which, until that moment of encounter, had been cold, trapped in self-righteousness, and only too ready to accuse and condemn others, much like the older son of the Gospel narrative. It is very important to take note of this, because when the heart is closed to God’s mercy, the result is many of the problems that confront us today: deep inner anxiety, family and societal violence, moral confusion, and terrible poverty and isolation.

What Jesus did for Saint Paul he wants to do for us. He wants us to know mercy and forgiveness. God wills that we live, that we rise to a life of joy, that we allow the warmth of his mercy to ignite a flame of hope within our hearts. We will be changed, our world will be transformed, if we allow the mercy of God to touch us, to heal us, and to fashion within us the new and abundant life that he wills for all of his children.

To be heralds of the Gospel we must be proclaimers of the mercy we ourselves have received. Mercy turns us outward, away from self-concern and toward God and others. It awakens us to our solidarity with others, especially those who suffer. Let us pray always for the grace necessary to steward well the call to announce the beauty of the Gospel by being open to the gift of God’s mercy and agents of that mercy to others. In this way God will make us true evangelizers and instruments by which his love can bring about the transformation of our world.