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

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Symphony of Salvation

Last week I had a truly wonderful experience. On Thursday evening I joined the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra as the narrator in one of their Christmas presentations. This necessitated being seated on stage next to the conductor. I have always loved symphonic works, and from that particular vantage point I found myself not only surrounded by stunningly beautiful music but also able to see in a manner not otherwise possible the marvellous interaction between the conductor and his musicians. At the appropriate moment he would indicate that one group of instruments should play and another be silent; at other times all would be heard together, and occasionally one instrument would be featured. Everyone had his or her role to play. Some instruments seemed to be more predominant than others, but all were equally necessary. The lack of participation by any one particular instrument would have diminished the whole. What guided it all was, of course, the musical score, but the notes on the page could only be communicated as beautiful music via the musicians under the direction of the conductor.

This experience was very fresh in my mind as I encountered the Scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. They speak of a “musical score”, so to speak, namely, God’s plan to save the world from its sins. Individuals are assigned a part so that, through them, this plan would become a reality. Central to this plan is Jesus, the one who is Emmanuel, “God with us”, whose advent would be signalled by his birth from a virgin (cf. Isaiah 1: 10-14; Matthew 1: 22-24), and whose name indicates his salvific mission (cf. Matthew 1: 21). At the same time, the readings indicate others called to play their part in service to Jesus and to the Father’s plan.

Mary is chosen to be the mother of the Saviour. Joseph is chosen to be her husband and to take to his home both Mary and the child conceived within her by the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in the second reading (cf. Romans 1: 1-7) that he has been chosen to be an apostle in service to the Gospel. Each role is unique, yet they are united by what St. Paul refers to as the “obedience of faith”.

Faith is the response to the Gospel, and by “faith” is meant a complete surrender of one’s life to God, motivated by complete trust in His love and wisdom and expressed in obedience to God’s will, even if such obedience means a profound change in our lives. The normal human expectations that Mary and Joseph would have had for their married life together had to be set aside for the sake of God’s plan. St. Paul had to undergo a radical transformation in his life from persecutor of the Church to proclaimer of Christ.

Each of us, too, is assigned a role in the continued unfolding of God’s saving will. It is, fundamentally, to accept the call to holiness that stems from Baptism and then to be attentive to the gifts God has bestowed upon us and to how he chooses and calls us to place them at the service of the Gospel. This will likely involve change, sometimes total, yet we accept this in the obedience of faith, trusting lovingly in God’s love for us.

The beauty of the Gospel has inspired the most beautiful of all music. Some of that was shared last Thursday evening. Indeed, all that is truly beautiful has its roots in the One who alone is Beauty, God Himself. May we accept the call God gives to each of us to communicate in our own way the beauty of Jesus Christ and the Father’s plan fulfilled in him.