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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Holding It All Together

News reports are filled these days with evidence of an unravelling of the social fabric. Foremost recently is the string of shooting deaths in the United States. As we know, we are not immune to gun violence in Canada either. It leaves us deeply unsettled, feeling like things are pulling apart. Global developments are also unnerving, as for example when we see NATO allies uniting in response to Russian military manoeuvres, or as the insanity of terrorism continues to wreak terrible carnage. We witness all around us a tendency, even among friendly neighbours (e.g. Brexit), for nations and peoples to pull away from one another in mistrust and self-preservation.

The social fabric is under pressure at home in Canada, too. The legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia is, in effect, the abandonment of the one sure principle that, if commonly heeded, can enable us to live together in community, i.e., respect for all human life and the conviction that no one life is more worth living than another, regardless of circumstance. Many families live with pressures and tensions that threaten their unity, and parents and children yearn deeply to keep the home together. Psychologically, individuals can have a hard time “holding it all together” when the difficulties of daily living just seem to be too much.

So, how do we hold it all together? We long to see an end to division on all levels, yet the unravelling just seems to keep on going. The answer to this dilemma comes to us in the Scripture readings that we heard on Sunday.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians (cf. 1:15-20), teaches that, in Christ Jesus, “all things hold together”. In him God has been made visible to us; through him and for him God created “all things”. Jesus is both the centre and the meaning of human history. If all things hold together in him, then, apart from him, all things fall apart. When we can no longer hold it all together (and when have we been able to do that??!!), then it is clearly the time to return to the One who can.

Returning to Christ means acceptance in faith the truth that he is God made visible. This, in turn, requires an acceptance of the words he speaks. In fact, the words of his recorded in the Gospel passage from St. Luke (cf. 10: 25-37) provide the remedy for the illness that plagues us. In the familiar and well-beloved parable of the Good Samaritan, the man beaten, robbed and left for dead represents broken humanity. The Good Samaritan is Christ himself, who heals with the ointment of mercy. Obedience to His command to “go and do likewise” is the abiding antidote to the ever-present virus of division. Mercy heals; love unites. Bitterness separates; hatred divides. As Pope Francis recalls often in this Year of Mercy, the call of Christ is for all of us to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful.

This call is not impossible, because the Lord grants us the grace we need for its fulfillment. Moses foresaw this long ago when he said “Surely this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.” (cf. Deuteronomy 30: 10-14.) God renders possible the life to which he calls us. That life is one of unity and peace, made possible by the gift of His mercy that he asks us to extend to one another. How do we hold it all together when forces threaten to tear us apart? Live by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.