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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Making Jesus Known - Our Urgent Task

On Sunday we heard the account of Jesus gathered with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi, where he posed to them this question: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” is the heart of the Church’s faith and the reason for her mission. Notice that Jesus poses the question publicly, and that the response of St. Peter is also given in the hearing of others. The public question seeks a public response. In other words, the conviction deep in our hearts concerning the truth of Jesus must be made visible in the way we live our lives in the sight of others.

The importance of this in our day cannot be overstated. As I ponder the encounter between Jesus and Peter, I go back in my mind to a moment that impacted me deeply. I was together with hundreds of thousands of young people at the World Youth Days (WYD) in Toronto, listening to Saint John Paul II. Noting that the beginning of the new millennium was heralded by two contrasting images - on the one hand the millions of pilgrims who flocked to Rome in celebration of the Jubilee of Redemption and, on the other, the terrorist attacks upon the World Trade Centre in New York, - he said this to the gathered young people, and to the world:

"The question that arises is dramatic: on what foundations must we build the new historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the twentieth century? Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now taking place, which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and efficiency, without reference to the individual’s spiritual dimension or to any universally shared ethical values? Is it right to be content with provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon life to the impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads? The question will not go away: on what foundations, on what certainties should we build our lives and the life of the community to which we belong? ... Christ alone is the cornerstone on which it is possible solidly to build one’s existence. Only Christ – known, contemplated and loved – is the faithful friend who never lets us down, who becomes our travelling companion, and whose words warm our hearts (cf. Lk 24:13-35)."

Here we have stated in a contemporary context the implications of acknowledging that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The only sure foundation of our lives is Jesus Christ. He who is the Son of the living God brings to light the meaning of our existence and makes known its definitive direction. Sadly, however, some fifteen years after WYD in Toronto, world events continue to manifest a turning away from God and thus from hope. They demonstrate that too many people are building their lives on foundations other than the person and message of Jesus Christ, which is to say they are constructing the edifice of their existence upon nothing more than shifting sand (cf. Matthew 7:24-27). Therefore, Jesus must be made known to others, proclaimed with the joy that springs from knowing, contemplating and loving him.

“Who do you say that I am?” Let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the same insight and conviction that inspired Peter’s response, and the boldness to give our answer publicly by living as Christ’s disciples.