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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Knowledge through Experience

Today was Petra. Absolutely astonishing! An ancient kingdom hidden among the mountains. We gave up a lot of time traveling on the bus yesterday and today in order to get to this out-of-the-way place in southern Jordan, but it was well worth the effort.

Many of the pilgrims before leaving home had undertaken some research, watched videos, reviewed photos etc. in order to prepare for this. However, they said that all the research in the world could not have adequately prepared them for Petra. In truth, in order really to appreciate the place one has to enter into Petra through the famous mountain crevasse (more than a kilometer in length) and walk around inside it to see the extraordinarily beautiful architecture chiseled in the stone . "Inside knowledge", as it were, is what it takes to "get" Petra.

In this light we can see that even in this pre-Christian place we find a lesson for our pilgrimage. Life in Christ is truly appreciated from the "inside", from actually living in the love of the Lord as his disciple. One cannot claim to understand Christianity, the life of faith and the mystery of the Church if it is only studied and researched "from the outside". Only when one allows Christ to enter through the "crevasse" of the heart, to move within and chisel away any hardness in order to transform it anew into a masterpiece of art, will one begin to "get" what Christianity is all about and understand what is meant by Gospel joy.

As we begin to think of our return home, we thank God that he has given us in this pilgrimage the grace of a deeper "inside" experience of the Christian life. No books or photos could have fully prepared us for this experience. With St. Peter we say, "Lord, it is good for us to be here" (cf. Matthew 17:4), because through this pilgrimage to the places where he once lived, he has drawn us closer to himself.

He has also opened our eyes to the wonderful work of mercy he is accomplishing through his people in this land. Jordan is home to millions of refugees, to the point that they now comprise nearly forty percent (!!!) of all the people living in this land. The Jordanian people are responding with extraordinary generosity to the plight of their neighbours. What a great act of mercy! We learned this as we visited a Catholic parish in Amman at the end of our day and celebrated mass there. Through their example may the Lord open many other hearts - and borders - to those from this region who suffer grievously from violence.

Audio Recordings

One of our pilgrims has kindly offered to make audio recordings of my homilies during the pilgrimage. I invite you to listen to these recordings as a way of journeying with us.