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

Monday, March 13, 2017


It drives me nuts! Like many smartphones, mine has a feature that automatically "corrects" text as I type. Mind you, sometimes it is helpful. Most often, though, its proposed corrections are nothing more than gibberish or words that convey a message quite other than I had intended! I've learned it is very important to review the wording of the text or email before hitting "send". 

Many's the time, though, when we wish we had an "auto-correct" for our speech. We all know the experience of speaking without thinking, when prior thought would have provided a helpful corrective or cautioned us not to speak at all. Steady formation of conscience and regular examination of it helps to develop such an "auto-correct" in our lives. It doesn't hurt either to pray daily to our guardian angel to swoop in as needed with a gag for our mouths. 

There is, too, an "auto-correct" operative as we receive messages. I am thinking in particular of our reception of God's Word. God has spoken in Christ, and Sunday's passage from Matthew with the account of the Transfiguration records the command of the Father: "Listen to him" (Matthew 17:1-9). There is obviously no allowance for auto-correct here! The listening we give to Jesus must be that of complete and trusting obedience. As St Paul recalls for us, when the Lord speaks, he calls in accordance with his particular purpose for us and for the world (2Timothy 1.8b-10e). He calls out of love and is entirely worthy of our trust. I love the example of Abram (later Abraham), given in Sunday's first reading (Genesis 12:1-4). God called him to leave his home - leave all that he knew, all that was familiar - and go, but without telling him where! No auto-correct in Abraham. He trusted, obeyed and went, and was thus made the father in faith of us all. 

How do we receive the Word of God, spoken in Christ? Do we auto-correct it when it does not match our plans and desires? For example, when the Lord calls us to take up our cross, do we instead run from it? When he summons us to holiness, do we remain in sinful patterns of thought, speech and action? When he commands that we die to self so as to live for God and neighbour, do we continue to place ourselves first, perhaps not even noticing the suffering of others around us? These are all forms of auto-correct. Due to the abiding effect of original sin, the auto-correct is a default reaction in our weakened human nature. 

So, what to do? Well, when I'm tired of the auto-correct on my phone, I go into "settings" to turn it off. Fixing the auto-correct operative in our response to God's Word, however, requires a complete system reset, or what in more biblical terms we would call a change of heart. Let us pray for this particular grace during this Lenten season. As we obey the call of the Father to listen to his Son, may the Holy Spirit so transform our hearts that we will do so without compromise.