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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Don't Turn the Channel

I love it when young children ask me how old I am. They think I'm ancient to begin with, and it's fun to lend credence to that thought. I usually tell them I was born in the mid-1900's (gasp!), and spent most of my childhood in a time when there were no personal computers, smartphones or video games (stunned disbelief). What really seems to shock them beyond all else is to learn that, when I was their age, television offered a grand total of two channels (jaws drop). Worse, if I wanted to change the channel, I had to get up, walk across the room, and do it manually ("What??!! No remote??!!"). By the time I'm finished, the children have developed a deep sympathy for their Archbishop, who suffered such hardship growing up.

Although we can do it remotely now, nevertheless changing the channel has become more complex. There is a seemingly endless variety of channels from which to choose, and we can spend a lot of time "surfing" with the remote. We tune in only to that which interests us, and tune out all other voices and programming not to our taste. This isn't limited to the television. It also characterizes societal relationships. Less and less, it seems, are we willing to listen - to stay tuned in - to points of view that differ from our own. Not only do we "turn the channel"; but also sometimes we try to "turn the set off" altogether (witness the shouting down in public gatherings of speakers with an unpopular message).

In reality, though, this is nothing new. Consider the Gospel passage proclaimed on Sunday. Jesus returns to his hometown and preaches in the synagogue. At first the people are tuned in. Their eyes, we are told, were "fixed on him." All spoke well of him, until he began to say things they didn't want to hear. Appreciation quickly turned to anger and they instantly tuned him out, to the point of rushing him to a cliff to throw him over it!

Whenever we tune in to the Lord, and fix our eyes, our thoughts and our hearts upon his Word, we will find ourselves at times deeply consoled and re-assured. We are his beloved children. Easy to stay "tuned in" then. At other times his Word will leave us profoundly challenged. We are sinners, after all, and always in need of conversion. How do we handle the Lord's rebuke? Change the channel? That's tempting, but it's not the way of a disciple. We acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The only response, then, is to stay tuned in, as shocking and painful as that might be, and allow his Word and his mercy to touch, heal, and transform us into the faithful disciples he calls us to be.

There's another dimension to this too, of course. Jesus said that no servant is greater than his master (cf. John 15:20). Reaction to our announcement of the Gospel will be no different than the response received by Jesus himself. Some will accept it favorably. Others will tune us out or even try to shut us down. No matter. Our call is to be faithful and to entrust everything else to the Lord. Indeed, the Gospel tells us that Jesus walked through the midst of those seeking to do him harm. Those who act against the Lord and his Gospel simply cannot prevail. Of that, his resurrection is definitive proof.

So, let's never "turn the channel" when we are addressed by the Lord. And when others seek to tune us out, let's stay faithful and keep broadcasting.