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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Shepherd After the Lord's Own Heart

This is the gift given to the Church Monday in the ordination of Bishop Gregory Bittman as Auxiliary Bishop of Edmonton. Long ago, through the prophet Jeremiah, God had promised to guide and govern his people by raising up shepherds "after his own heart". (cf. Jeremiah 3:15). With great joy and enthusiasm the clergy and faithful recognize the fidelity of God to his promise in the choice of Bishop Bittman. In great numbers they gathered Monday at St. Joseph's Basilica, together with the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada and more than twenty Bishops, for the ceremony of episcopal ordination. Please join with me in praying for God's many blessings upon the new Bishop's episcopal ministry.

"After the Lord's heart." The heart of Jesus, overflowing with love for us, is on full display throughout the Gospels. In the passage proclaimed last Sunday (Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23), we can sense some pain in the heart of Christ, a suffering born of love. Quoting Isaiah he says: "This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Forgive the play on words, but here we find ourselves at the "heart" of the matter. From the heart of the Father, Christ has come to the world to draw us to his own heart and thus enter the Father's love. The Christian life, at its heart, is a relationship of love. A merely external observance of Christian ritual or mores is insufficient. Through his critique of the empty formalism of the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus invites all of us to allow him to cleanse us interiorly, to purify our hearts, so that the union of love he wills to share with us might be brought about and deepen.

As we welcome a new shepherd "after the Lord's heart", let us be reminded of the call to open our hearts fully to the love of Christ.