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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Come in from the Outside

The Gospel of Sunday (cf. Mark 1:40-45) recorded the narrative of Jesus healing a leper. It offers some insights into the task of the new evangelization, which the Church today is very eagerly embracing.

Leprosy, at the time of Jesus, ostracized, as we learned in the first reading of the Mass (Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46). Lepers had to dwell "outside the camp", i.e. apart from the community. Therefore, when Jesus healed the leper, he effectively restored him to regular community life, he enabled him to come in from "outside the camp."

This particular superficial healing was a sign of the more universal and deeper cure for which Jesus was sent to the world by his heavenly Father, that remedy we call salvation. To humanity living "outside the camp" of God's communion because of its sinfulness, Jesus was sent, so that, by the power of his Cross and resurrection, he might touch this wound and thus bring humanity back in to the embrace of the Father.

The Church now continues this work of the Lord. This means that we must be attentive to the manifold ways in which people of our day are living "outside the camp" in order to invite them home. Many today live "outside the camp" of meaning, seeking in vain to find purpose. Others are "outside the camp" of hope, struggling with despair. Too common is the experience of existing "outside the camp" of sanity, witnessed in the vain pursuit of illusory objects to satisfy human longing. The sad economic plight of millions demonstrates that much of the world is living "outside the camp" of justice, caught up in individual concerns at the expense of the needy. Underlying it all is the universal human tendency, fueled by original sin, to live "outside the camp" of truth, namely the truth about God - his love, mercy and proximity - and the truth of ourselves - weak and needy, but loved and wanted by God.

Central to the task of the new evangelization is a fresh and joyful announcement of the truth, which means a new proclamation of Christ, Who is the Truth. With enthusiasm we proclaim that his healing touch brings us in from "outside the camp", by restoring us to the Father and thus to one another. Only when back inside the camp, only when living a life of love and friendship with Christ, do our questions find their answer and our longing its fulfillment.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Celebrating the Catholic Women's League

On Saturday night I joined with over 600 people to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canada's first Catholic Women's League council, which was formed here in Edmonton. The CWL is definitely an organization worthy of celebration.

I've been observing the service of the CWL to both Church and country for a long time now as both priest and Bishop. It is a community of women who are steadfastly faithful to their Catholic identity. I am convinced that we can offer no greater service to our country and world than to be what we are, to be Catholic, authentically Catholic. In many ways we can look to the CWL as an example.

To be Catholic is to be convinced, in every fibre of our being, that there is nothing more beautiful than to know Jesus Christ. Therefore the Catholic will centre her or his life on prayer, the study of the Word, and the celebration of the sacraments, in order to grow in the knowledge of Christ and his love. Time and again I have seen the CWL look for ways to help their members fulfill their desire to grow in the faith, both within the League and in the all-important context of the family.

To be Catholic is to be a person of communion. We are, after all, the Body of Christ. This requires communion with the Holy Father and the College of Bishops. It demands a common fidelity to the teaching of the Church. I have seen in the CWL a remarkably consistent commitment to the Church's doctrine and a ready willingness to bring it to bear on fundamental social issues of the day.

To be Catholic is to reach out in love and compassion to the needy. In fact, that's how the first council in Edmonton and Canada came to be, born of concern for immigrants. A commitment to charity and justice cannot be absent from a Catholic life authentically lived. Neither, therefore, can it be lacking in the life of any Catholic institution. Far from absent, this commitment is in the forefront of the CWL, locally, nationally and internationally.

Happy centennial to the CWL of Edmonton! They will have many occasions throughout the remainder of this year to celebrate this milestone, including the hosting of the 2012 national convention, and celebrate they should. Indeed, we should all celebrate them because of the remarkable witness and service they provide in both the Church and community.