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, August 20, 2012

No Substitute for Local Knowledge

On Saturday evening I was in Provost, Alberta, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Mary's Parish. A great celebration. Fr. Mahesh and the parishioners are to be congratulated. From there I had to drive across the province to Kananaskis for a joint meeting of the Executive Committees of the US and Canadian Bishops' Conferences. My GPS gave me a choice of routes, and indicated that the travel time in each case would be about six and a half hours. However, when I checked with some of the local folks, they gave me directions that the GPS hadn't: first, go here, then take this turn, then follow this road until it becomes another, etc. By taking their advice I saw for the first time some breathtaking Alberta scenery and reduced the travel time to five hours. No substitute for local knowledge.

We live in the midst of a society, which in many ways is searching for direction, often without even knowing what the destination is. In such a context, the call of the Church is to be the community of "local knowledge", which knows both the destination and the best way to get there. The "destination" for which every human heart longs, even unconsciously, is eternal life. The best way - in fact, the only way - to "arrive" at it is Jesus Christ. Jesus is "local knowledge" incarnate. Fully divine, he is the Son who lives in the bosom of the Father and comes from the Father to make known the truth of God; fully human, he has experienced humanity's condition. He has, then, "local knowledge" of the love and the plan of God, of the proper human response to the divine saving purpose, and of the union of the divine and human "yes" to each other that leads to eternal life.

As the community of those who live in and from communion with Christ, the Church participates in his "local knowledge". This communion is bestowed upon us in the Eucharist, the sacrament in which he gives us his Body and Blood as true food and drink. "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." (John 51:56) For more than 2000 years, the Church has lived from this communion, and by its grace has reflected upon the teaching of Christ in the light of experience. This has given rise to a tremendously rich body of "local knowledge", which the Church shares with the world in liturgy, proclamation, catechesis, art, spiritual direction, works of charity and justice, and in the witness of her saints.

Many voices are offering directions to a variety of "destinations", but the only reliable "local knowledge" that directs us to the Father is Jesus Christ. The community of "local knowledge" that leads us to him is his Body, the Church. There is no substitute for it.