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, April 29, 2014

Fear Not the Medicine of Mercy

This is how I would bring together the message and legacy of the two popes whose canonization we have just celebrated, Saint John XXIII and John Paul II: let us not be afraid of the merciful love of the Lord. The stirring words of John Paul II first spoken at the homily of his inaugural mass as Pope still echo: Be not afraid to open the doors of your lives and of all facets of society to Christ. Perhaps not as vivid in people's memories today, but nonetheless still striking, are the words spoken by John XXIII in his opening address to the Second Vatican Council which he convoked. There, he signalled that the Church's response to the errors of the day should not be condemnation but "the medicine of mercy". What a beautiful expression! This is precisely how Jesus touches and transforms us: through the remedy of his merciful love. Not to fear Christ is not to fear his mercy.

Why would this be a source of anxiety? Because mercy and forgiveness, if we truly receive them, change us. Yet the change the Lord wills for us is always in view of drawing us closer to Him, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the greatest good. Be not afraid.

It is here, the centrality of mercy, that the continuity between the pontificates of these two great saints is most evident. It is only fitting, then, that Pope Francis, who himself has made God’s merciful love central to his own Petrine ministry, chose to celebrate their canonization on Divine Mercy Sunday. The legacy of our two new saints summons us not to doubt but to belief, and thus not to fear but to hope, not to sadness but to joy, all of which spring from confidence in the tender mercy of God. By summoning us to trust in the divine mercy, Saints John XXIII and John Paul II echoed the call of Saint Peter of whom they were the successors: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Together our new saints say to us: Be not afraid. Open the doors to Christ, whose medicine of mercy is that which alone can heal and transform our lives, and, indeed, the whole world.