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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Behind the Masks

Halloween. I just received a picture of my niece (10) and nephew (12) in the costumes they want to wear this evening for "trick-or-treat". I think it best that I not share them with you. When they become adults they'll be embarrassed and might have a word or two to say to their uncle.

The day of masks. The day when our true identity is concealed. Would that it were only today that this happened. Many seem to find it necessary to hide their true selves all the time, and not only from others but also from themselves. Various forms of masks and pretensions are assumed in order to be "acceptable". This is a tragedy. Each of us is created unique and beautiful in the eyes of God, a gift to be shared, not an embarrassment to be hidden away!
Significantly, the masks come off on the following day. That is All Saints Day. As we know, the word Halloween comes from All Hallows (i.e. Saints) Eve, the eve, or vigil, commemorated before All Saints Day. The saint is the one who does not wear a mask, who lives peacefully before God his or her own truth. Sainthood, or holiness, is a gift that arises from a vital union with Jesus Christ. The encounter with the Lord awakens us, yes, to our weakness, failings and mistakes, but also to our belovedness in the eyes of the One who manifested that love in his death on the Cross. This love sets us free to be ourselves and offer ourselves as gift to others. Often in the Gospel we hear Jesus say, "Those who humble themselves will be exalted." Humility is truth. We "humble ourselves" when, under grace, we accept the truth and the giftedness of ourselves and refuse to put on masks that we falsely think will "exalt" us in the eyes of others. The exaltation of which Jesus speaks is the lifting up out of falsehood that happens when we accept the truth of his love, and in that love, the truth of ourselves. 

At our opening session last Thursday evening of Year 4 of Nothing More Beautiful, the witness, David Wells, spoke of the freedom he experienced when he was brought to an awareness of the infinite love of God. He recalled for us the moment when he first held his newborn child in his arms. The love he felt for the child was obviously not earned by the baby, and was so great that he knew he would do anything to make the world a better place for his child. Then he thought, "If God loves me this way, then I am going to be all right." No matter how greatly the parent might love the child, God's love is greater still. Infinitely greater. Yes, we are going to be all right, because of that love. We do not earn it. We cannot. It is freely given in superabundance. No masks or pretensions are necessary. The Lord sees us as we truly are, and He loves what he sees. May our own awareness of this love help us so to humble ourselves that we shall be exalted, lifted up, to a life of truth and freedom.

I am in Rome for the first part of November for the annual visit to the Holy See of the President, Vice-President and General Secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is a wonderful opportunity to share with the Holy Father and officials of the various dicasteries (departments) of the Vatican the blessings and challenges of the Church in Canada. Please keep these meetings in your prayer. Grazie!