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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Always a Gift

I returned to Edmonton late Saturday evening. The minus-30 temperature was sure a shock to the system, but – hey – this is home and I’m glad to be back.

This evening (Monday) I have the great privilege of joining with the priests of the Archdiocese to celebrate a Mass in honour of those of our number celebrating this year important jubilees of ordination. It is perhaps providential that our Mass occurs on the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. The traditional teaching that Mary was brought at an early age by her parents, Saints Joachim and Anne, to the Temple has been handed on in the Church since the early centuries.

Although it stems from non-historical sources, nevertheless it has been kept and honoured liturgically because it reflects an important theological intuition of the Church, namely, that Mary, from her earliest years, was entirely dedicated to God. It complements and flows from the truth of her Immaculate Conception. Mary was prepared from the beginning by God for her unique role in salvation history, and when that message from Gabriel came to her, she said yes. It is a pleasure to honour the men who have modeled their priestly lives on Mary’s docility to the Word of God and who have thus greatly enriched the life of the Church and the lives of the countless people entrusted to their care.

Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King, and heard the passage from Saint Matthew concerning the Last Judgement. It is a story that never fails to rivet our attention, because it spells out clearly that for which we shall be held to account by the Lord: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these…” Students at exam time would give almost anything to see the examination questions in advance so that they can prepare. That seldom happens. Yet that is precisely what Jesus is doing for us in this Gospel passage. He is giving us the questions in advance. How have you loved?

In other Gospel passages he tells us that the greatest of all commandments is love of God and of neighbour, and in this one from Matthew he spells out that we obey the greatest commandment through the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the prisoner, and so on. Furthermore, he so identifies himself with the needy that, in our care for them, love of God and love of neighbour mysteriously become one: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”

Last week brought to our attention brothers and sisters in particular need of love and mercy: the dying. A report by a special parliamentary committee that was examining the state of palliative care services in Canada was released. I was encouraged by its obvious deep concern for the terminally ill and by its call for adequate compassionate and palliative care services. A statement by the CCCB in support of the report can be found on our Archdiocesan website. By way of very stark contrast, a report by a panel of persons commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada was released only a couple of days prior. It calls for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. I was able to give it only a quick read, but even that was enough to make me heartsick. It is not too difficult to find in it the not-too-subtle suggestion that helping people kill themselves or allowing doctors to kill them would help to ease the “burden” of care felt by families or the financial “burden” placed upon our health care system. The human person at any age and in any circumstance is always a gift, not a burden, and we should aim, as the parliamentary committee’s report says, at ever new ways for social inclusion of our weak and vulnerable, not exclusion.

We need to keep our eyes on this issue and be ready to speak out in defense of life. I recommend you keep abreast of this by referring to the website of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition(check out Alex Schadenburg’s blog). For reference I also recommend the statements issued by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, which you can find at

God bless and have a good week.