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

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Different Inoculation

Vaccinations are much on people’s minds here in Alberta, with a recent outbreak of the H1N1 virus. In fact, the response to the government’s counsel to be vaccinated against this disease has been such that supplies of the vaccine ran out at the end of last week.

In the face of an infectious disease that is seen in its effects to harm us, many choose inoculation as a defense against its spread. This raises the question of what we can do to “inoculate” against the contagion of that far more serious and damaging malady we call sin.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Perplexing is the fact that Jesus, though sinless, submitted to the baptism of John the Baptist, which was given for repentance, that is, for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord did this not for the forgiveness of any sin on his part, obviously, but to manifest his solidarity with sinful humanity. Jesus is the Son of God sent from the heavenly Father to free us from our slavery to sin and death. To accomplish this he assumed our human nature from the Virgin Mary, so that in his humanity he might conquer sin and its consequences through his death and resurrection. Jesus is the one and only remedy for sin. We are “inoculated” against this disease by living in union with him.

How do we do this? Well, first of all, we need to be deliberate about this and consciously choose, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to dispose ourselves to receive the gift that Jesus brings, the gift that he is. We dispose ourselves to a flu vaccine by making the effort to go to a clinic that offers it. We open our lives to Jesus by deliberating setting aside time each day for prayer and for an obedient listening to his Word spoken to us in Sacred Scripture. We dispose ourselves to Him by receiving his grace in the sacraments of the Church, especially through regular participation in Mass and by frequent confession in the sacrament of Penance. When we make the effort to step out of ourselves to serve others in need we encounter the Lord and grow in our communion with him.

Sin is both real and deadly. We must acknowledge its reality and guard ourselves against it. We know from experience that we cannot do so unaided. The only effective protection is the grace of Jesus Christ.