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.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mud Soap

I confess, I just don't get it. Cleansing with mud strikes me as counterintuitive, for sure. Yet that is exactly what a lot of our pilgrims did at the beginning of our last day in the Holy Land. (In case you're wondering, I wasn't one of them.) We spent the night before at a hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea, and that gave folks the opportunity this morning to "lather up" with black stuff and float on the very salty waters. They told me afterward how good they felt! I'll take their word for it.

What I do see, though, and what we have all seen anew these days, is how the soul is cleansed by the Lord's descent from heaven into the "muck" of our lives. During our pilgrimage we have been reminded again and again of the ineffable love of Jesus that led him to take upon himself the sin and suffering of humanity. This "muck" left him disfigured, and us restored to spiritual health (cf. Isaiah 53:1-5). This is a love like no other, and which therefore must be made known.

Thus was it fitting that we celebrated our last mass in the Holy Land at the Church of St Peter in Jaffa. We came to this place immediately after we crossed back into Israel from Jordan.

Jaffa symbolizes mission. It was from this place that Peter set sail for Caesarea to the house of Cornelius. This was his first mission to bring through word and Baptism the grace of Christ to the "wider world". On the eve of our departure for home, this was a reminder that we are "sent" to all dimensions of the world around us - home, work, leisure, culture - with the message of true hope given uniquely in the Gospel of our Lord.

The experience has left us enriched with an unparalleled experience of the wonder of the faith. We know we can't just keep this to ourselves, but are impelled by the power of the Gospel's inherent beauty to give witness to it before others.

After mass we went to our hotel in Tel Aviv to prepare for tomorrow's flight.

It's been very moving to see and hear how the Holy Spirit has been working in the hearts of the pilgrims, often in surprising ways. God is so good, so very, very good. We have tasted that goodness (cf. Psalm 34:8) in the land made holy by the presence of the Lord, and we return home with renewed and grateful hearts.

 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.