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.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Our Passport


The passport is proof of identity. It identifies citizenship, the sovereign territory to which I belong. As I cross a border to another country, the customs official will have me open the passport to the photo page. Then the official looks back and forth between the photo and my face with the unspoken question: is it really the same person?

On Easter Sunday we renewed the promises made at the time of our Baptism. This moment of renewal is like showing our passport. We are announcing the sovereign territory to which we belong. At Baptism we crossed a border into not just a new territory but a new life. We traversed the frontier separating sin from holiness, death from life. We left the land of self-reliance and entered the realm of dependence upon Christ. Our sovereign ruler is Jesus the Risen Lord; we are citizens of his kingdom. By his death and resurrection Jesus has been made Lord - Ruler - of heaven and earth. Since by Baptism we are given union with Christ (cf. Romans 6:5), we became through that sacrament citizens of heaven, even as we continue on our earthly pilgrimage. That's why we heard St. Paul tell us in his letter to the Colossians: "If you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above... Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (cf. Colossians 3: 1-4) In other words, don't forget your true citizenship and set your priorities accordingly.

As we renewed our baptismal promises, we were led through the Creed, the great summary statement of Christian faith. First, we recalled the territory we left behind Do you reject Satan and all his empty promises? I do! Since Jesus by his resurrection has vanquished the power of sin and death, those who follow him give a resounding No to the Evil One and to all that is wrong. We've crossed that border and there is no going back! Then we professed our citizenship: Do you believe in God the Father? In Jesus Christ His Son? In the Holy Spirit? In the Church? To each we said, I do! By his resurrection from the dead and gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has revealed the truth about God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and has made it possible for us to share in that very divine life! He makes us members of his Body, the Church, called to be his people, fellow citizens with the saints, even as now we are on pilgrimage to the fullness of life in his heavenly kingdom. Those who follow Jesus give a resounding Yes to God and to his saving purpose. This is where we belong. This is our homeland.

Now, giving those answers was like opening our passports to the photo page. As we proclaimed our faith we presented the Christian image. It is good always to ask the question: as others look at the reality of my life - how I act, how I think, how I speak - how does the reality compare to the photo? Is it the same person?

Truth to tell, even though at Easter we proclaim our Yes to God and No to evil, in our daily lives we often get it backwards, saying Yes to evil and No to God. The photo doesn't match the reality. If that happens at a border crossing we are refused entry and sent away. But that is not how God acts. When we acknowledge in humility and contrition that our lives do not correspond with our words, we are not kicked out of his territory; we are forgiven. Such is the steadfast love of God; such is his unfailing mercy.

So, having renewed our baptismal promises, let's remain aware of our true homeland, the boundaries of which are marked out by our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Let's humbly admit our tendency not to live up to what is expected of us as citizens under Christ's sovereignty, and thus our need for God's constant help. By the gift of his mercy, may our Sovereign Lord enable us always to say No to evil and Yes to God, not only with the picture of our words but also with the reality of our lives.