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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Revelation Along the Journey

Pretty messy around here these days. The warmer temperatures are welcome, of course, but the melting of the snow is exposing a lot of dirt. As the snows recede, what comes to view is a lot of litter, as well as the sand that has been used for traction on the winter roads. Spring rains and city cleaners will be busy with the cleanup! This might be a helpful metaphor by which to approach the Scripture readings from last Sunday and thus to understand the Lenten journey on which we find ourselves.

In the first reading from 1Samuel, the Lord reminded Samuel, who was about to anoint God’s chosen as king of Israel: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” We bring our “hearts” before the Lord during Lent, so that He who sees within might bring to light what is of darkness (cf. the second reading from Ephesians) and heal us of our infidelities. This can at times be painful for us because the movement of God’s grace melts our hearts frozen by pride and self-reliance and gradually brings to view the “dirt” of our sin. He thus brings us face to face with the truth of ourselves, as he did with the woman of Samaria as recounted in the previous week’s Gospel passage. What is exposed may be very difficult to acknowledge. Yet the Lord wants only to heal and transform, and our sin is brought to our view so that he might “wash it away” with his love and mercy.

From this perspective we realize that the blind man healed by Jesus in the Gospel is representative of all of us. Apart from an encounter with Jesus, we cannot see properly, and are blind to the truth of our need for his saving grace. Recall how Jesus healed the blind man; he used mud that he formed from the dust of the earth. This evokes the teaching of Genesis, where we are taught that God created the human being from dust. This Gospel passage is teaching us that Jesus Christ, “through whom all things were made” (cf. John 1:3), has come to recreate us as the children of God and lead us home to the Father.

Ironically, when the blind man began to see, others could not “see” him, i.e., they did not recognize him at first as the same man who had had to beg. We are changed when we meet the Lord, and others will notice the difference. The blind man accepted the questioning as an opportunity to tell others of Jesus. We, too, must do the same.

I had a wonderful experience over the weekend with some young adults of the Archdiocese who are seeking to be such witnesses. They are the team leaders in one of our Archdiocesan youth camps, called Our Lady of Victory Camp. We celebrated the Eucharist together, and then had a brief Q&A session around the theme of evangelizing the young people of today. I was very impressed and heartened by their commitment to the Lord and His Church, and their urgent desire to be authentic witnesses of the Lord’s transformative love.

The following day afforded me the opportunity to meet with the priests who have come to this Archdiocese from other countries. As is the case in other dioceses where there are insufficient numbers of priests to serve the pastoral needs of the faithful, these men have made great sacrifices to be present here in service. We can well imagine it is not easy to move away from family, friends and native country to work in a new culture. Yet they do so gladly and we are grateful. Their presence enriches us with the reminder that we are part of the universal Church of Christ, responsible for one another. Our encounter with the mercy of the Lord happens wondrously in the sacraments of the Church, and their ministry among us makes this possible for many.

Allow the Lord this Lent to bring about whatever “melting” needs to occur in your life in order to lead you to forgiveness and freedom. In this way we discover in our own personal experience what the blind man found through his: that Jesus alone is Saviour of the world and only He is the reason for our hope.