I guess I just can't get enough of the cold. I left relatively balmy Edmonton (-18) on Saturday to fly north to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, where a windchill temperature of minus 46 degrees awaited. Mad dashes all around to warm interiors. The reason for the trip, though, would warm any heart in spite of the temperature. The northern diocese of Mackenzie - Fort Smith was about to receive a new Bishop.
Sunday afternoon was the time for the ordination. In the course of a beautiful ceremony lasting nearly three hours, Bishop Mark Hagemoen, a priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, was ordained and installed as Bishop. It was wonderful to see the joy on the faces of the people, and to witness the very heartfelt welcome extended to their new Bishop and all present by the local Dene people.
I was struck by the coincidence of this event and the central question in the Gospel reading of the Mass, which was that assigned for the Third Sunday of Advent. The answer to the question defines the heart of the episcopal ministry. It is the question asked by John the Baptist from prison and posed to Jesus by his disciples: "Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?" When Jesus indicated that his deeds were the fulfillment of the signs given by Isaiah of the arrival of the Christ, he was saying, in effect, "You need wait no longer; I am he." What joy and consolation this answer must have given to John, even as he lay captive in prison!
And what joy and consolation this answer should give to us. This answer is the essence of every Bishop's preaching. Today it is announced to many whose hearts are held captive to fear, despair, doubt, loneliness and lack of meaning. Such hearts are waiting for the release that is given in the knowledge of God's love, proximity, tenderness and salvation. They will continue to wait as long as they look for anyone other than Jesus Christ. Are we to wait for another? Absolutely not! There is only one who can truly set us free. He has come to us, and remains close to his people. That One is Jesus Christ; He and no other.
May The Lord bless Canada's newest Bishop with deep joy and strength as he now undertakes his episcopal ministry, at the heart of which is the call to rejoice, because Jesus is near and we need wait for no other.