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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Surrounded and Carried by the Church

Since my mother died suddenly March 17th, this is exactly what I and my family have experienced - surrounded and carried by the Church. At a time of deep sorrow the love of Christ and the consolation of his Holy Spirit enveloped us, reaching us through the food brought to the house, the visits at the funeral home and, above all, the prayers of the vigil and the liturgy of the funeral mass. It is wondrously true that the Church is the mystical Body of Christ. We encounter his love and mercy in and through His Church. Words really cannot express how much this truth has helped and consoled us.

Neither can they fully articulate the gratitude we feel for the many messages of comfort and remembrance, the telephone calls, and the visits. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank those of you who sent condolences to me and my family. They did, indeed, lift us up.

Now we unite with the Church in her eager anticipation of Holy Week, with its stunningly beautiful liturgical commemorations of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the events by which He overcame death and gave life to the world. May the Lord's victorious love surround and carry all of us.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Zeal for the Gospel

When Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of a new evangelization, he specified the "new" in terms of zeal, method and expression. Well, this past week I encountered plenty of the first: zeal. On Thursday I joined with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa to have an afternoon-long discussion with members of the Canadian Catholic Youth Ministry Network (CCYMN). Then, on Saturday, I gave a talk to a formation conference for adult leaders of youth ministry, organized and hosted by CCYMN. In each case the ardour for making known the Gospel to our young people was palpable. It was very encouraging to meet, and hear from, people who are dedicating their lives to making Christ known. Clearly, what they do is, for them, not "just a job". It is a vocation, a mission, rooted in their own personal encounter with the Lord. Pope Benedict has spoken of this encounter as an "event" - something happens, we are changed when we encounter Jesus - and this "event" of meeting unconditional divine love has certainly impelled these youth evangelizers forward, with joy and enthusiasm, to those who are especially precious to God. "Let the children come to me ..."

That zeal also arises from a deeply held conviction that the message they carry to the young is one that must be announced and which, if accepted, leads to real life. There is an urgency to this annunciation, because our beloved young are immersed in a media world that offers anything but real meaning and hope.

That is precisely what our young people not only need but want. There is a desire for depth in the teaching they receive, a longing for real foundations on which to build their lives. I have recently begun to meet with a group of students from one of our Catholic high schools in Edmonton. They are serious about their faith, and are able to articulate very intelligent questions. Pat answers, or arguments lacking solidity, simply will not do. Where can they turn to find the meaning they seek? Certainly not to most of what comes to them through television, music, the Web and so on. Young people have very accurate antennae, and I sense they are growing increasingly tired of, and disappointed by, the shallow and vapid signals they are picking up from popular media sources.

Catholic youth leaders today share this sense, and thus earnestly desire to share the Gospel with our young people. They know, as does anyone who meets the love of God in Christ, that a relationship of love and friendship with Jesus Christ gives birth to a hope and joy that is real, that endures, and that can be found in no one else. We are blessed to have the CCYMN in Canada. Please join me in prayer for God's blessings on their outreach to our youth.

P.S. Since I was speaking in the hometown of the Ottawa Senators, this is the image they used when introducing me at the youth ministry formation weekend:


Monday, March 5, 2012

Jesus Christ: Meaning for Humanity

Into everyone's life burst moments or events that bring the deep questions inescapably into focus. When we unexpectedly face the death of a loved one or our own sudden illness, for example, the thin illusory veil of self-sufficiency we use to cover our weakness, vulnerability and uncertainty instantly disappears, leaving us face to face with the big "why" questions of life. What is the nature of the human being? What is the meaning and purpose of this life we live? Where is everything heading? Failure to grapple with these questions and to find reasonable answers results in directionless and angst-ridden existence.

The joyful truth of the Gospel is that these questions do have answers. In fact, ultimately they all have but one and the same answer: Jesus Christ. We find meaning in him.

This was what the apostles were beginning to discover when they witnessed the Transfiguration of the Lord, as recounted in Sunday's Gospel (cf. Mark 9:2-10). By the voice from heaven Jesus is identified as the Son of God. Seen in the presence of Moses and Elijah, he is revealed as the fulfillment of salvation history. In other words, humanity's deepest hopes finds their satisfaction in Christ Jesus. But by Jesus's own command, the apostles were not to tell anyone about what they had seen until after Jesus had risen from the dead, because only then, and with the gift of the Holy Spirit, would they understand the meaning of what they had seen and heard. In the meantime, the Gospel narrative tells us, they found themselves "questioning what this rising from the dead could mean."

We would do well to do the same. What significance is there in the fact that Jesus has risen from dead? Pondering this question leads us into the truth of Christ, in whom we find the answer to all other questions. St. Paul's reflections serve well as our guide (cf. Romans 8:31-35, 37). He teaches that, because God the Father did not shrink from giving up his own Son to save us, we can know with absolute certainty that nothing at all can ever separate us from the love of God revealed in Jesus. In Christ, we are shown that the meaning of human existence is to live in a relationship of peace and love with God, and our destiny is to rejoice in this love with God forever. This love is sure, and thus provides the basis for real hope in moments of trial and distress.

The deep mysteries of life confront each of us. Ignoring them is certainly an option, as much of our Western society seems to do, but it is not a very good or healthy one. It leaves our decision-making without a frame of reference, which in turn gives rise to deep anxiety. Turning to Christ is a far better choice, because in him we find the answers that give clear meaning to life and thus real hope.