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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Who’s He Been Listening To?

I woke up Sunday morning to the shocking news about an attack in Edmonton the prior night that police are investigating as possibly a terrorist act. As I write this blog post on Sunday afternoon, the details concerning the individual and his motives are not yet known. Yet already some questions have been coursing through my mind: who on earth has this man been listening to; what voices have placed within him such a deranged idea as the need to hurt or kill other people; who has he been allowing to exercise such a malevolent influence on his way of thinking?

Truth to tell, these kinds of questions have been preoccupying me for quite some time, not only because of this or other acts of violence but also due to the fact that we all are facing daily a barrage of “voices” and messages that seek to influence us and shape our mindset and, thus, our way of acting. Just think of the world of social communications. TV, radio, Internet, social media platforms, emails, texts, magazines and newspapers present us with a dizzying multiplicity of voices bombarding us minute by minute and competing for our attention. From amongst it all we make choices: we stay with a certain Internet site, we remain tuned in to a favourite television series, we follow particular Twitter personalities. The longer we remain tuned in, the more that particular voice or message will exercise its influence upon us and form our mindset, our way of thinking. This raises what in my estimation are some of the most important questions that we need to be posing: to whom am I listening? Whose messages, ideas or opinions am I allowing to influence my thinking and hence my way of living? Why? The one to whom I listen is the one to whom I give my trust. Are the sources trustworthy? On what basis do I make this assessment?

These questions lie behind my decision to issue a pastoral letter. In it I am inviting everyone in the Archdiocese to a particular form of very focused and attentive listening. Specifically, I'm inviting all of us to focus upon the one voice we know we can trust, to the one message that is certain to lead us to what is truly for our good. The voice is that of God, and His message is that which He has given to the world in the Gospel concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. I'd like us to undertake this listening by making a deliberate effort to read the Bible every day. Too many voices today are offering falsehoods that seduce us away from the love of God and from fidelity to Him. The temptation to listen to these voices and allow them to impact the way we think and act is very strong. By living daily in the Word of God, standing firm by faith in the truth it proclaims, we become inoculated against the cancer of falsehood that is always ready to take hold, and which can metastasize in our current communications environment with astonishing rapidity.

Frere Antoine's Bible in the crypt of St Albert Church.

The Bible is not just another book. As we read and ponder Sacred Scripture, God draws near and speaks. His Word is alive; in it we actually encounter the God who has become one of us in Jesus. When we allow His Word to take root in us, our lives find their true horizon and clear direction. To live apart from that Word is to wander in darkness; that is not God's will for us, His beloved children.

There are many words coming at us today, that is true. Yet amidst the changing reality of communications media, there is one unchanging word that alone remains always worthy of our trust, that alone unlocks the key to life's meaning and direction: God's Word, given to us in Sacred Scripture. It is the only Word that matters. Let's resolve to hear it with thanksgiving and, with joy, put it into practice.