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, January 16, 2012

Jesus - He who has broken down the dividing wall

I'm sitting at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, resting with some tea after a wonderful two days here in the area of Capernaum. Once the meetings of last week were concluded, I entered a week-long period of retreat in the Holy Land. Eighteen years since I've been here, and it is terrific to be back to this place where it all began.

The contrast between this week just beginning and the last is striking. The meetings of the Holy Land Coordination focused, as I mentioned in my last post, upon the situation of the Church here and sought to offer solidarity to our suffering brothers and sisters in the faith. (Click here for our final communique.) We heard stories of frustration, separation and tension as people struggle to find a solution that will bring lasting peace to this troubled part of the world. This current week, visiting the holy sites associated with the earthly life of our Lord, is a reminder that the solution has been given.

Today I went to the Mount of the Beatitudes, and read once again: blessed are the pure in heart, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the peacemakers, and so on. In this teaching we touch the essence of the Gospel of peace, the recipe for abiding reconciliation among all peoples. Ultimately, of course, the solution is not a teaching but a person - Jesus himself. In a land where an immense concrete wall has been erected to separate Palestinians from Israelis, indeed in a world where we all can place innumerable barriers - both literal and figurative - to separate ourselves from others, from our true selves and, yes, from God, we need to reflect again on the teaching of St. Paul. Jesus, he tells us, "is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us." (Ephesians 2:14)

Putting an end to hostility. Reconciling. There is the Christian project. Hostility separates; love reconciles. Today I celebrated Mass at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the very place where the Word became flesh, where Love became incarnate, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. To destroy the hostility that divides, to be for us the peace we seek, God became one of us in Jesus. He came to earth because we cannot save ourselves, because we cannot be our own remedy. We need the grace of God to be at peace, to live in "ordered and reconciled societies," as Pope Benedict put it in his recent address to the Holy See's diplomatic corps. Jesus is our peace, and our mandate as his followers is to receive that peace and extend it to our relationships with others.

I will be praying often during this week for a real and lasting peace in this land of our Lord, and would be grateful if you could do the same.