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, November 7, 2016

The Panorama Shot

I didn’t know my smartphone camera had this feature until someone pointed it out to me. Remarkable, really. Just hold down the button, move the camera around to take in everything I want included in the shot, and - behold! - all of reality surrounding me appears in the picture. This panoramic view helps one to see how each individual item in the photo is situated in relation to all others. It gives, literally, the whole picture.


That is what happens whenever we read the Bible. We see “the whole picture”. Sacred Scripture provides a “panoramic view” of nature and history by situating both within the whole of reality that surrounds us. That “whole” encompasses not only the visible world and our experience of the unfolding of time but also the mystery of eternity and the wondrous plan of God for humanity, a plan that arose from the heart of God even before time began. Within such a “view”, we can appreciate how our lives “fit”, what their place is in this picture and how they are related to other persons and events within it. Without such a view, our vision becomes narrow and myopic and in consequence the ultimate meaning of things escapes us. When our inner camera focuses only upon the present and the immediate, we fail to capture the elements of broader reality that help us grasp the meaning and direction of our lives.

The necessary expansion of vision is provided in the readings from Sacred Scripture proclaimed at mass on Sunday. By pointing to the truth of life after death, they reveal that there is much more to the mystery of living than “meets the eye”, than our earthly existence. Confidence in life after death enabled seven brothers to endure torture and death rather than deny their Lord (2 Maccabees 7: 1-2, 7, 9-14). Jesus affirms life after death in his response to the Sadducees trying to entrap him (Luke 20: 27, 34-38). He refers to the words of Moses, who encountered the Lord as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” God is God of the living. Life continues after death. By accepting and appropriating this truth, our “picture” of life broadens.

The words of Jesus are true and trustworthy. He is, after all, “born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God”, as we say in the Creed. Coming from eternity, from the bosom of the Father, he knows of what he speaks. In Jesus, we are given the panoramic view which fully enlightens our lives and unveils their true meaning. In him we see that we are meant for an eternal destiny, for timeless communion with God. By his entry into time he also makes known the connection of the historical present with our eternal future. How we live on earth has everlasting consequences.

This is the picture in which we see ourselves truly and completely. By accepting and living within this panorama, we find meaning and direction, hope and joy.