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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hope at the Foot of the Mountain

Last night the Academy Awards were handed out. A celebration of fantasy and illusion. Hollywood, marked by acting and special effects, is anything but real. Indeed, it is an escape from the real. Therein lies its attraction. Daily life is experienced by many as drudgery, a painful hardship, and watching a good movie can for a time take our minds off of the reality of the everyday.

When, as recounted by yesterday's Gospel passage (Luke 9:28-36), Jesus takes his three chosen disciples to the top of the mountain to witness his transfiguration, he leads them away momentarily from life at the mountain's foot, away from the everyday encounter with poverty, sickness, despair and other forms of human hardship. But the trek up the mountain is not an escape into falsehood or illusion. It is a journey to what is true. In his transfiguration Jesus reveals his true identity, which shines forth and is confirmed by nothing less than the voice of the Heavenly Father: "This is my Son, my Chosen!" The point of the event is to strengthen the disciples for what they will encounter when they go back down the mountain - not only the normal daily challenges but also the scandal of the Cross! Jesus offered them in advance a glimpse of the glory he would have in fullness following his suffering and death, in order to sustain them as they witnessed his agony.

We who also live our lives at the foot of the mountain can draw comfort and strength from what all of this teaches about God and his love for us. God draws near to his people, directing them and all of history in accordance with his plan of love. Nothing is outside his concern. Many times in the Old Testament God's revelation occurred on a mountaintop, it is true, but his saving action also happened on the plain - God with his people in their need. After the transfiguration, the disciples came down the mountain, back to daily life. But so did Jesus! He, the Son of God, comes to us in the lives we live at the foot of the mountain. He enters into our daily reality with his love and his mercy. So when things are difficult we don't need to escape into illusion, into distractions. Rather we are called to turn to the real, the truth that the Lord is with us. This is what strengthens us and gives us hope.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


This past Sunday we heard the Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert by Satan. The evil one besets The Lord with the seductions we face daily: to rely on self rather than God and to self-identify in terms of power, control, possessions and so on instead of as a beloved child of God.

At the root of our struggle with temptation is a fundamental choice, namely, to base our lives upon truth or a lie. Satan is the father of lies, and seduces us away from fidelity to God by lying to us, as he did Adam and Eve. Jesus is the Truth, and speaks the words of everlasting life. When we determine to establish ourselves on the word of Christ, then temptation is revealed for what it is: encouragement by deceit to captivity, to attaching ourselves to what is only passing, often illusory, and thus a drawing away from the freedom that issues from trust in the love, wisdom and providence of our Heavenly Father.

The Gospel account of the temptations reveals that, of course, there is no contest between Satan and Jesus, who sends the evil one packing. We, on the other hand, are weak and easily fall prey to the deceptions. Through our Lenten observance, may Jesus grant us a deeper sharing in his love for the Father and obedience to the Father's will so that, in him, we will be able to separate truth from the lie and live faithfully and freely as the children of God.

Monday, February 11, 2013

We love you, Holy Father

Quite a surprise that greeted us all this morning! The resignation of Pope Benedict caught everyone unawares.

We are grateful to God for the leadership given to the Church by this extraordinary man. The clarity and beauty of his teachings will be a legacy to enrich the Church for generations.

Having met with the Pope last November and seen firsthand his growing physical weakness, I sympathize with his decision. Clearly his love for the Church and his shepherd's heart have led him to take this step, which he believes in his conscience to be necessary for the good of the Church. We offer our prayers for him and assure him of our love and gratitude.

Please Pray For ...

A few things to commend to your prayers this week.

First, these past few days saw the passing of two holy men: Most Reverend Arthé Guimond, Archbishop Emeritus of Grouard McLennan, and Reverend Father Duncan MacDonnell, priest of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Archbishop Guimond was an inspiration to me and many others, especially in the manner he accepted and lived within the limits imposed upon him by serious illness. Father MacDonnell was a priest beloved of all who knew him; he served faithfully for many years with the heart of a true shepherd. Please hold them in prayer. May eternal rest and perpetual light be theirs by God's great mercy.

Second, think of someone you know today who is sick, and perhaps consider visiting them. At the very least pray for them. Today, February 11th, is the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. A prayer to offer is proposed at This day also marks the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Let us lift up to the intercession of our Blessed Mother not only our ill loved ones and friends but also those who have no one to pray for them.

Finally, let us pray for ourselves. Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday. It is a privileged time of grace and mercy, during which we ponder in a particularly focused manner the truth of God's love and readiness to forgive. In yesterday's Gospel passage (Luke 5: 1-11) we heard the call of the Lord to Saint Peter, and through Saint Peter to us, to set out into deep waters with the truth and beauty of the Gospel. First among the depths to be plumbed is our own heart. Let us ask the Lord during this holy season to reveal our hearts to us. Where do we need healing? Forgiveness? Freedom from guilt? May we then not hesitate to bring this need to him in the Sacrament of Penance that we there find mercy and a new beginning.

Speaking of this sacrament, please note that the Archdiocese of Edmonton is holding this Lent a special Day of Confessions. On March 6th, priests will make themselves available throughout the day and evening to receive those wishing to make their confession. All priests. All day. All parishes. You can find more details on our website at and I've also issued an invitation in video form. Please use your social networking contacts to spread the word!

Day of Confessions from Archdiocese of Edmonton on Vimeo.

Have a good week.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Discerning the Call

Yesterday I had the joy of meeting at Saint Joseph Seminary with fourteen gentlemen gathered there for our “Come and See” weekend. These days are set aside for men seeking help to know if the Lord may be calling them to serve the Church and world as a priest. They came from across Western Canada for this event.

The readings at Mass highlighted some important principles of discernment. They are pertinent not only to those pondering a religious vocation but to all summoned by the Lord to a life of holiness and discipleship.

To Jeremiah the Lord said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you….”In the light of faith we recognize that these same words are also directed to each of us. Known and set apart by God even before we are conceived! It is difficult for the mind to grasp this astounding truth, and perhaps hard for the heart to accept it. Yet, it is the case that each of us is known, loved and called by God. How do we discern what this summons is?

The people gathered in the synagogue at Nazareth to listen to Jesus point the way. The passage from Luke tells us: “The eyes of all were fixed on him.” By keeping our attention riveted to Jesus Christ we come to know his will for us. We “keep our eyes fixed” by means of daily prayer and meditative reading of the Scriptures, frequent celebration of the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Penance, and consultation with an experience and trusted spiritual guide. In this way his will for us gradually becomes manifest.

Necessary, too, are a spirit of trust and an attitude of humility. When the hometown crowd at Nazareth heard Jesus, they all at first spoke well of him. Yet, they could not see him as anyone other than just one of their own, so they eventually took offense at him as he challenged their assumptions and prejudices. Faith does not take offence at Jesus. Rather, it recognizes the truth that he is both human and divine, the very Son of God incarnate! From this acknowledgement arises the decision to trust not in ourselves but in his Word and plan.

Responding in faith to Christ also demands an honest awareness that the hardness of heart on full display among the crowd at Nazareth can also be present within ourselves. The same dynamic operative in the crowd’s response to the teaching of Jesus repeats itself in us. At first we marvel at the love of Jesus manifest in the sacred words of Scripture. Yet a continuous pondering of his Word will lead inevitably to a challenging of our own prejudices, thought and behaviour patterns, and assumptions as they are brought to light. The appropriate response at such moments is not the rebellion of the crowd but the repentance of a contrite heart.

Yes, we are, indeed, loved and summoned. May the Lord bless us with the necessary focus, faith and humility to discern his call.