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, March 21, 2011

To Whom do we Listen?

To whom do we listen? Where do we place our trust? What voices most influence us? These are the questions raised by the Scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Lent. There are many “voices” that speak to us in innumerable ways, and not all of them influence us in healthy ways. The news media, TV shows and movies, popular song lyrics, majority opinion, literature, the arts and the social network all speak to us. To what are we listening? To whom are we paying attention as we navigate the realities of life and make decisions that shape the way we live?

“While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’” This is taken from the Gospel reading for Sunday (cf. Matthew 17:1-9). It is the voice of our heavenly Father, speaking from a cloud that descended upon the mountain where Jesus was transfigured in the presence of chosen disciples. As the divinity of Jesus shone forth, his identity as Son of God was confirmed by the witness of the Father’s voice. That voice commanded the disciples, as it now commands us, to listen to Jesus.

Long ago, according to Sunday’s first reading from Genesis (cf. Gen 12: 1-4a), Abram heard the divine voice as it summoned him away from his home, from all that was familiar. Not knowing where that voice was leading, he obeyed. Obedience to the voice of God continued to shape the life of Abram, such that he became for all the father of faith.

God’s voice continued to resound throughout history, reflected in the voices of those He chose as his prophets. Finally, that voice was given perfect expression in Jesus, who is the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh. He is the One sent from the Father as “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). His voice echoes in the words of Sacred Scripture and in the Sacred Tradition of the Church.

To whom are we listening? Let us pray this Lent that the Lord himself will reveal to us the answer to that question. May his grace free us from all harmful influence and dispose our hearts and minds to accept his voice as that which alone can lead us to life.

This past week attentive listening to the Word of God culminated in the gathering together of many people of different faith traditions to pledge themselves and their communities to help the homeless. In Edmonton, as in other cities in Alberta and Canada, the city has formulated a ten-year plan to end homelessness. Members of the faith communities want to be part of this by providing to the newly housed connection and welcome to community. The gathering last week was to announce and launch a plan whereby the various congregations in Edmonton can take action to reach out to those previously homeless and, by our presence and love, affirm their human dignity and offer them the experience of belonging to community as integral members of society. At the event the chair of our local Interfaith group, Rabbi Kunin, read from the prophet Isaiah the Word from Scripture to which we are listening and responding: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58: 6-7) It was a very moving event, one that filled all in attendance with a deep sense of hope. Please keep this initiative in your prayers.

When we listen to the voice of the Lord and choose to obey and follow it in trust wonderful things happen. God alone is worthy of our full trust. He has spoken in Jesus. Let us heed the voice of the Father and listen to His Son.