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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shaking Things Up

While travelling recently on a flight, I was seated directly behind two people, who, in the course of the journey, struck up a lengthy conversation. I was trying to do some work, but their voices were such that, try as I might not to listen, I could not help overhear what they were saying. They spoke about anything and everything. At one point their conversation turned to Pope Francis, and I confess, my ears really perked up. Their assessment of the Pope very positive, and at one point one of them said, "He really seems to be shaking things up over there." This was yet another example of the widespread impact our Holy Father is having on our world. He is attracting the attention of many people, believer and non-believer alike. It was also an instance that demonstrated the impression he is giving to many: he is shaking things up over there.

The "over there" refers to Rome and the functioning of the Holy See. That there is a need to "shake things up" should surprise no one. It is both natural and responsible for any institution to assess its manner of operation and review its structures in order to change and improve as necessary. It is clear that the Holy Father wants this to happen for the Holy See. At the same time, we would miss the main point of the Holy Father's desire to "shake things up" if we were to focus only on the "over there". That is not the first priority of Pope Francis. From his homilies, speeches and messages it is very clear that he wants to see a shakeup not only "over there", but also, and principally, "in here", that is, in our hearts. That is where the real shakeup needs to take place, and we all know we need it. In other words, the Pope is giving a strong echo in our day to the call of Jesus for a change of heart, for conversion, the fundamental and ever necessary Christian shakeup.

Some clarity on what this means was given to us this past Sunday as we marked World Mission Sunday. Each one of us, in virtue of our baptism, is called to participate in the missionary work of the Church. One important way is to offer our financial resources to support the work of ecclesial organizations that carry the Gospel to lands far and wide. At the same time we are called both to support and to be missionaries. Often we hear Pope Francis urge us to embrace our responsibility to be missionary disciples of Jesus. Following our Lord means sharing in his mission of being sent by the Father. This does not mean that we need to travel to faraway countries. It does mean being missionaries where we find ourselves: in our homes, our workplaces and on our streets.

If I am living only for myself; if I am, as the Pope recently and so memorably put it, only a "painted Christian", where my Christianity is only a veneer but my heart and lifestyle are far from the Lord; if I practice personal piety but neglect the poor and needy around me, then I am not living as a missionary disciple and my heart needs a shakeup. This week, let us all pray that the Holy Spirit will really shake things up "in here", in our hearts, and transform us into authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.