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


This picture shows one of the panels on the holy door at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. I have always loved it, and it speaks beautifully of the Good Shepherd reaching out to save the lost. That's the reason for hope.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Setting Us Up for Success

This is an expression I learned from our Catholic school teachers. Regularly, they strive to "set their students up for success" by giving them the preparation and the tools they need in order to succeed at what they are doing.

I see examples of this whenever I visit a school. Children are told ahead of time who the Archbishop is, what he does, how to address him and so on. By the time I arrive there is usually a little welcoming committee of students, each with their speech prepared and knowing exactly what they will show me in the school, what questions they want to ask, and so on. They have been set up for success.

The motivation for this is love. The teachers truly do love the children entrusted to their care, and take great delight in seeing them succeed.

It's a good analogy for what God is doing for us in the gifts of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Moved by a love beyond all telling, God acts in our lives to set us up for success. "Success", here, means salvation, the overcoming of sin-induced separation from God so as to live in a communion of covenant love with Him both now and forever. Clearly, this is something we cannot achieve on our own. We need to be set up for success. Therefore, God the Father sent His Son to assume our human nature and be for all of humanity in every age the way that leads to eternal life (cf. John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives to unite us to Christ and thus be our very life principle, prompting us to live in accord with the Gospel.

Once the teachers had the students "set up for success", the children had to play their part and actually do that for which they had been prepared. So, too, must we cooperate with the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That cooperation is called faith. There are many ways to speak of faith, but here I invite the reader to think of it in terms of allowing ourselves to be carried by the love of God. God sets us up for success by inspiring in us the good that we do and bringing it to completion (cf. Philippians 2:13). Faith is a surrender to this working of grace, allowing it to carry us. It is, itself, God's gift, something for which we must constantly pray (cf. Mark 9:24).

Perhaps we could all take some time this week and ask the Lord to help us to see how he has been at work in our lives. How has He been carrying us and setting us up for the success he wills for each of us: life with Him forever. And may God deepen within each of us the precious gift of faith by which we welcome thankfully and joyfully the movement of his grace within us.