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

Monday, January 6, 2014

What's Gone Wrong?

This was the Pope's question on New Year's Day. During the course of his January 1st Angelus address, he departed from his prepared remarks to refer to a letter he had received from a man anxious over the world's many difficulties, and then asked, "What has happened in the hearts of men, in the heart of humanity?"

This is more than just a good question. It is essential. Like the man who wrote to Pope Francis, we, too, are troubled by the great suffering we see all around us. To come to terms with it and find hope for a better future, we need to grapple with that question posed by the Holy Father. What has gone wrong in human hearts?

Moreover, this is not a matter of speculation about the hearts of other people! Each of us is a member of the human family. Therefore, any divisions within our own hearts will contribute to the fractures of humanity.

The Feast of Epiphany offers direction for a serious self-examination. It recalls the search of the Magi, and their journey stands for the inner quest of every human heart. Their various titles of "Wise Men" or "Kings" suggest that, by worldly standards, they had just about everything on offer. Yet it was not enough. The world did not satisfy. A restless desire stirred within them and caused them to follow that famous star. Its light led them to the One who alone would quell their restlessness and satisfy their longing: Jesus the Christ, born of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem. Epiphany means manifestation" or "revelation". The encounter with the Magi revealed the truth of Jesus as universal Saviour.

The examination of our hearts begins with the question of our own personal response to this truth of Our Lord. Have I come to terms with who he is??!! Have I accepted my own need for salvation, for God's saving mercy and love? Have I acknowledged not only with my lips but also with my heart, indeed with my whole being, my need for Jesus Christ? Is he first in my life? Two simple questions can help us answer honestly these fundamental ones.

How do I spend my time? Time is precious, and what we do with our time reveals our priorities. Do I make time daily for prayer and the reading of Sacred Scripture? Do I set aside time for the worship of God on Sunday, the day of the Lord? Have I time to serve the needs of others? Or is my time used first for the satisfaction of my own needs and agenda? My use of time tells me if Jesus is my first thought or an afterthought.

Likewise with money. On what do I spend it? True priorities come to light in the answers I give to this question. What percentage do I set aside for God and the needs of his people? Do I even think about this? Do I support the needs of the Church and other charities? Do I give to the poor? Do I give from my substance or from my surplus, from what is left over after personal desires are satisfied? Again, is Jesus my first thought or an afterthought?

When the Magi met Christ and recognized him as universal King and Saviour, their first act was to bow down in worship. A rightly ordered life begins with and flows from the worship of Jesus Christ in our hearts. To return to the Pope's question, what is wrong with the heart of humanity is the absence therein of authentic worship. Our use of time and money will often indicate that we worship not the Lord but ourselves and the ways of the world. Such self-focus displaces God and the needy and thus leads to separation and division in the human family. The Wise Men worshiped by the offering of gifts. Let us return to the worship of the Lord Jesus by offering him the gift of our time and resources, indeed, by offering the gift of our entire selves.