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.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Love on Full Display

This is what the beautiful liturgies of this week will manifest - the love of God for the world fully revealed. On Passion Sunday we are reminded that this divine love, incarnate in Jesus Christ, remains unshakably steadfast even in the face of complete betrayal. When we commemorate the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, we shall be reminded by the the Gospel of Saint John that Jesus loves us "to the end". By this "end" is meant his death on the Cross, which Good Friday's celebration will exalt as the wood on which was hung our salvation, the place where Jesus offered his life in love to the Father for the sake of the world. Holy Saturday ponders the descent of Jesus into hell, as we say in the Creed. Hell is the ultimate consequence of a radical rejection of God's love. Yet even there the love of God pursues us. Divine love simply does not, will not, give up on us. Finally, Easter Sunday will celebrate with great joy the triumph of God's love over sin and death. By his resurrection, Jesus transcends the boundaries of space and time and thus is forever with us, dwelling within us by the outpouring of his love, the Holy Spirit.

Love on full display. How do we respond? Our verbal response will be given on Easter Sunday when we profess anew our baptismal faith in our Triune God and our surrender to his love. As we prepare for this great moment we need to ask if the words of our lips correspond to the sentiments of our hearts. This question arises from yesterday's Passion Sunday liturgy. That Mass is highly dramatic. It begins with the narrative of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, surrounded by joyful crowds. Moments later we hear, in the Passion account, that those same crowds soon stopped their cheering and turned against the Lord, calling for his crucifixion. Even his disciples abandoned him. The reason for the turnaround was, of course, the Cross. It became clear not only that Jesus would accomplish his messianic mission by embracing the Cross, but also that any who choose to follow him would need to do the same, just as Jesus had instructed: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) The crowds would have none of this. They wanted Christ without the Cross and turned against him.

Have we truly embraced the Cross? Its dynamic of death to self and life for God was impressed upon us at our baptism. We make the sign of the Cross every time we pray or dip our fingers in holy water. When we renew our baptismal faith at Easter will it be only words and gestures, or will that profession correspond to a true desire to accept the Cross as the guiding principle of our lives? Let's ponder these questions deeply this Holy Week as we we witness once again Christ's love for us on full display.