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, February 13, 2012

Come in from the Outside

The Gospel of Sunday (cf. Mark 1:40-45) recorded the narrative of Jesus healing a leper. It offers some insights into the task of the new evangelization, which the Church today is very eagerly embracing.

Leprosy, at the time of Jesus, ostracized, as we learned in the first reading of the Mass (Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46). Lepers had to dwell "outside the camp", i.e. apart from the community. Therefore, when Jesus healed the leper, he effectively restored him to regular community life, he enabled him to come in from "outside the camp."

This particular superficial healing was a sign of the more universal and deeper cure for which Jesus was sent to the world by his heavenly Father, that remedy we call salvation. To humanity living "outside the camp" of God's communion because of its sinfulness, Jesus was sent, so that, by the power of his Cross and resurrection, he might touch this wound and thus bring humanity back in to the embrace of the Father.

The Church now continues this work of the Lord. This means that we must be attentive to the manifold ways in which people of our day are living "outside the camp" in order to invite them home. Many today live "outside the camp" of meaning, seeking in vain to find purpose. Others are "outside the camp" of hope, struggling with despair. Too common is the experience of existing "outside the camp" of sanity, witnessed in the vain pursuit of illusory objects to satisfy human longing. The sad economic plight of millions demonstrates that much of the world is living "outside the camp" of justice, caught up in individual concerns at the expense of the needy. Underlying it all is the universal human tendency, fueled by original sin, to live "outside the camp" of truth, namely the truth about God - his love, mercy and proximity - and the truth of ourselves - weak and needy, but loved and wanted by God.

Central to the task of the new evangelization is a fresh and joyful announcement of the truth, which means a new proclamation of Christ, Who is the Truth. With enthusiasm we proclaim that his healing touch brings us in from "outside the camp", by restoring us to the Father and thus to one another. Only when back inside the camp, only when living a life of love and friendship with Christ, do our questions find their answer and our longing its fulfillment.