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, July 11, 2011

A Different Sort of Construction Season

Driving around the city of Edmonton these days is enough to try the proverbial patience of Job. Construction is everywhere. Of course, it's necessary; we all know that. But still! Long lineups and extra time needed for the commute add up to a great recipe for a lot of impatience and frustration. What's more, a recent study proposed that an additional twenty-two overpasses be constructed over the city freeways in the course of the next 30 years. This won't be over any time soon, it seems.

There is a point to this rant. We are witnessing, and eventually benefiting from, repairs to the city's infrastructure. Roads need to be prepared for the sake of smooth flows of traffic, and this contributes to the overall good of citizens. But what about social infrastructure? This is every bit as, if not more, important than roadways. I am referring to how we relate to one another as fellow human beings. It is very clear that, here too, much repair work needs to be done. Our society is becoming increasingly competitive and aggressive, even violent. Witness the high incidence of domestic violence everywhere, and, in our own city, a growing number of homicides. Work on the social infrastructure is long overdue. It will take time and effort, it will be slow, it may encounter roadblocks and the frustrations that flow from them, but it is necessary.

The way forward is given to us in a small but important conference that is being held in Saint Albert this week. I dropped in on the group last evening. It is an annual event called Directions in Aboriginal Ministries and is aimed at strengthening relations with our aboriginal brothers and sisters in the Church. The focus this year is healing and reconciliation. This is the heart of any effort at repairing the social infrastructure. We need to be reconciled with one another, to live not in competition but in solidarity with one another, especially with the vulnerable. Yet before we are reconciled with one another, each person must be reconciled with himself or herself, reconciled with the truth of themselves. When we live peacefully with our own reality, i.e. with our goodness, on the one hand, and with the truth of our weakness, vulnerability and failings on the other, then we can live in peace with one another. Struggle to be someone other than I truly am leads directly to competition with others. Inability to accept my own weakness will prevent me from accepting weakness in others.

Such reconciliation cannot happen if God is eclipsed from our lives, both individually and communally. We encounter God in Jesus Christ, and in this encounter we meet truth. Take some time with paragraph 22 of Gaudium et Spes, the document from the Second Vatican Council on the Church in the Modern World. There the Church teaches that in Christ is revealed not only the truth about God but also the truth about the human person. God is Love, and the encounter in Christ with this divine love reveals the truth of our dignity and destiny, our immeasurable worth in the sight of God. Herein lies the ground of peace and openness to others. Yes, we are weak, but God is near. Yes, we have made mistakes, but God forgives. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, God heals us and transforms us, adopting us as his beloved sons and daughters in Christ. In other words, God reconciles to himself, an act which, if we embrace his mercy, leads us to reconciliation with the truth of ourselves and prepares us for reconciliation with others.

Our friends gathered this week at Saint Albert are facing head on the need for healing and reconciliation in the Church and in their communities. It begins with the love of God, which moves them to love themselves, as they are, and hence reach out in love, healing and reconciliation to others. May we learn from their efforts and commit ourselves to healing and reconciliation as the "cement" that will not only repair but also strengthen our social infrastructure.