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, May 16, 2016

Change Is Possible

As I entered a church on the weekend, I was greeted warmly by a parishioner, who said, "I hope you give us a long homily this weekend!" He was serious. I thought to myself, "Now, that's a first." Usually the sentiment moves in the opposite direction. In fact, I remember one time years ago a parishioner offering "an extra twenty in the collection if you keep it short!" Jokingly, of course. (I think.)

As we celebrated this past weekend the Solemnity of Pentecost, the homily did not need to be long at all to convey a point necessary for our times. In fact, that point can be summarized in three simple words: "Change is possible."

This message arises from the experience of the apostles when they received the promised Holy Spirit. They were transformed by this wondrous gift from on high. Simple, fearful and uneducated men all of a sudden became filled with clear understanding and remarkable boldness. They who had remained locked behind closed doors for fear of the authorities now were stepping forth with great courage to proclaim the truth of Christ.

Change is what we seek today, in many ways. We know that, as Christians, we are called daily to holiness, expressed in our embrace of God and his commands and through our rejection of Satan and all that is bad. Yet due to our inclination to sin we often get it backwards and, in our actions, say yes to Satan and no to God. This leaves us wondering, "Will I ever change?" Similarly, we are aware of our call to be witnesses before the world of our faith in Christ. Yet, in a society which seems increasingly allergic to the Gospel, we are tempted to shrink back in fear and to stay quiet. Will I ever change and start to speak and act in accordance with my faith?

More broadly speaking, we can crave change in our family lives. Difficulties with employment, with relationships, with children and so on can at times seem intractable. WE wonder if and how it could ever change. Think, too, of our culture and the trends within it that are opposed to what is true and right. We anguish over the usurpation of God's rule by the will of the autonomous self. The forces behind this are powerful and we wonder if anything can be done to reverse the situation. Global unrest is pervasive and massive. It is tempting to give into despair when we see the enormity of the problems and the inability of world powers to stem the tide. Can any of this change? Is hope for change realistic?

It is. Hope for change is reasonable not on the basis of our limited capacities but on that of the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit. Consider the supreme confidence of the Psalmist who praised God for the power of the Spirit to "renew the face of the earth!" Change is, indeed, possible, in all aspects of our lives. As it was with the apostles, so it is with us. Change is possible. Complete, radical change.

All that is needed of us is one little yet powerful word: "Amen." When at Confirmation the Bishop says to the recipient "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit," the response given is "Amen." That is to say, "So be it; I open my life here and now and every day thereafter to the power of the Holy Spirit in my life." Let this be the prayer on the lips of all believers as we commemorate Pentecost. God wills to clothe us with his power so as to renew us and, indeed, the face of the earth." May our hearts and lives be fully open to this transformative gift so as to experience the truth that change - real, profound and surprising - is possible.