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, 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.