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

Monday, May 25, 2015

There's Beauty and then There's Beauty

I spent the past week in Jasper with the priests of the Archdiocese for our annual days of study and renewal. The natural beauty of the area never fails to take my breath away. Having an opportunity for two rounds of golf there added immeasurably to the enjoyment!

At the end of the week I encountered another - and deeper - form of beauty that left me deeply moved. I met it in the people of the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation, when we met together for a few hours at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives.

These wonderful people came by bus on a two-hour journey to meet with me. The gathering was one of a series of listening sessions I am hosting with the various First Nations whose land falls within the territory of the Archdiocese. The Aseniwuche Winewak (or Rocky Mountain People) told me very moving stories of both sadness and forgiveness. The sadness arises from the story of their removal from their traditional land as Jasper National Park was coming into being. As this tale was recounted, what was particularly striking was their willingness to come to the table of reconciliation and extend forgiveness. Therein lies the beauty. The dignity of this people shines forth in their readiness to be servants of healing and reconciliation.

To their great credit, the officials of the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives are working hard toward this same end. For some time they have been working with the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation to ensure that their story be told with accuracy and sensitivity. It is a story which must be made known, and I am edified by the efforts undertaken to make this possible. Also present was an official from Parks Canada, who was greeted with great warmth and affection by the elders. Clearly much is happening toward reconciliation, and I pledged my willingness to participate in these endeavours.

The Rocky Mountains are truly beautiful. Of yet greater beauty are the hearts of the Aseniwuche Winewak people. It is an honour to know them and a blessing to have been able to spend time among them.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Choice by Which We Live

This week's provincial election is all the talk around here in Alberta. What has left many people astonished is the choice made by the people of an entirely new government. The one political party that had dominated provincial politics for more than forty years has been decimated and replaced by another. For this reason many are drawing attention to the change introduced into this province's history by the choice made on election day.

In the democratic sphere, governments depend upon the choice of the people, and the exercise of that choice can bring about change, at times unexpected and astounding. In the ambit of faith, we recognize our dependence upon choice at a deeper, and far more important level. Humanity exists because of a choice made by God to create us. Humanity's history was changed - dramatically, astoundingly and irrevocably - by God's choice to re-create us in His Son (cf Ephesians 1: 4-5).

Political choice is made either on the basis of merit (I judge this candidate to be worthy of my vote) or party loyalty. Hopefully the two coincide! God's choice of us, however, has nothing to do with the former, but is an expression of divine fidelity. In no way can we merit to be saved by God; we cannot earn salvation. God's choice of us arises from his love, pure and simple. That love finds expression in his fidelity to the promises he made to save the world in the gift of His Son. God is love; God is faithful. This is the basis of the choice he has made to create and redeem us.

We live by this choice. It is truly astounding, because we know we are unworthy. We know our sinfulness, weakness, infidelity and so on. Yet the astonishing truth remains: God loves us unconditionally and will never take back his choice to make us his children in Christ.

In the midst of all the political analysis of Tuesday's choice of a new government, let us not fail to reflect with humility, gratitude and joy on the choice made from all eternity by our all-loving, all-powerful and all-merciful God - the choice to give us life.