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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ever Heard of This?

Recently I was appointed by the CCCB to the board of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF). On Saturday I participated in my first meeting, during which some of the staff told of recent Canadian Catholic events they attended and at which they had made available a number of COLF's publications. They reported that many present at these gatherings were surprised to learn of the existence of COLF. I was surprised at their surprise!!! COLF has been in operation for many years, and does extraordinarily good work in support of the cause of life and family. It was a shock to me, to say the least, that people involved in the life and ministry of the Church in Canada had not heard about it. If the reader of this blog post is among those who have not yet learned about COLF, allow me to introduce you to this wonderful organization.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family is co-founded and co-funded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus. Its mission is to "to build a culture of life and a civilization of love by promoting respect for human life and dignity and the essential role of the family." From this mission statement it is clear that COLF focuses upon those issues which are foundational to the common good: life and family. Thank God it does, because these very same issues are viewed by many as not foundational but peripheral to society's concern.

Key to the accomplishment of its mandate is education. Issues are complex and we need help today to navigate through them so as to see the truth clearly. To this end COLF has over the years produced some beautiful documents inspired by the inherent dignity of the human being and pertaining to issues that flow from it: the right to life of the unborn, the full understanding of Christian marriage, the beauty and mission of the family, and so on.

Of grave concern to COLF and to all of us currently is the issue of the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. In point of fact, a bill to enable such legalization is presently before the legislative assembly of Quebec. As I wrote in an earlier post, the push for this legalization relies heavily on a deliberate confusion of terminology, aimed at covering over the fact that we are speaking here of killing fellow human beings. COLF has resources available to clarify the teaching of the Church and to help people understand her terminology and make appropriate distinctions.

I invite you to become familiar with COLF and its work and make use of its publications. It is a terrific resource! Check out its website at

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Honour the Body

The particular focus of the Scriptures this weekend was the resurrection of the dead. This is a truth of our Christian faith and we profess it every Sunday in the creed: "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."

The "how" of the raising of our bodies after death is a great mystery. We accept it as a truth of faith even as we are unable to explain how it happens. Yet the fact that it cannot be fully explained does not mean that it is something so abstract that it has no bearing on our present earthly life. Quite the contrary. This article of faith in the resurrection of the body has enormously important implications for how we live now. The resurrection of the body means that we live but once. There is no reincarnation, a succession of second chances, as it were. Our bodily actions on earth have eternal consequences.

Therefore, the truth of the resurrection of the dead summons us to a serious self-examination of how we are living today. It raises the very particular question of how we honour the body. The human body is God's creation and therefore worthy of honour. What is more, it is the temple of the Holy Spirit!

Sadly, we see the body being demeaned, not honoured. This past week the priests of the Archdiocese gathered for two days of study, and received presentations on various forms of social media and their impact on youth and families. We were shown clips of music videos and internet sites that our young people see all the time. They reveal a terrible degrading of the body, which is being used as the object of personal gratification and financial gain. Since God fashioned us as a unity of body and soul, the objectification of the body objectifies the person, and that is causing terrible psychological and moral damage. This is diabolical and our children need to be protected from it and taught the proper honour that is due the body. The harm is not limited to children. The accessing of pornography by adults is widespread. Not only does this evil destroy those who are trapped as slaves in the industry; it is also wreaking havoc in our own homes.

The antidote to this horror is a rediscovery and acceptance of the proper way to relate to the body. God is the author and master of life, not us. He is the author and master of our bodies. We are but stewards. Our call is at all times to trust in his love, surrender to his plan, follow his wisdom and rely on his mercy as through our daily actions in the body we love God and our neighbour. Only in this way can we truly look forward in hope to the eventual resurrection of our bodies and the life of the world to come.

Monday, November 4, 2013

In Good Standing

In the Gospel passage of yesterday (Luke 19:1-10), we heard the familiar story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. It tells us that Zacchaeus was "short in stature". Since he was not tall he could not see over the heads of the people in the crowd and had to climb a tree to see Jesus, who was passing by. Yet his physical stature was not his real problem; his personal one was. This latter "stature" was that assigned to him by others; he was a tax collector, and therefore designated a sinner.

Here we touch a perennial problem of humanity: our tendency to assign stature to one another. When we do so it is usually on the basis of standards that are false and illusory: beauty, achievement, talent, wealth, and so on. When we do not measure up to these standards, our stature is diminished in the eyes of others, and, most terribly of all, in our own.

Everything changed for Zacchaeus when he meet Jesus. To be more precise, things turned around for him when Jesus looked at him. We know that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but what was decisive for him was when Jesus noticed and looked at him. The Gospels tell us a number of stories of people's lives changing dramatically and totally when they came before the glance of Jesus. The Son of God in human flesh, Jesus sees the very truth of ourselves. He sees our true stature in the eyes of God and makes it known. Of Zacchaeus he said that he, too, was a "son of Abraham," was one, in other words, of God's chosen and beloved people. When we place ourselves before the gaze of the Lord and allow him to look at us, we discover in him our true stature. We learn that we are chosen in him to be the sons and daughters of God!

From the awareness of this truth life changes and is given true direction. After he met Jesus Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay fourfold any he had defrauded. That is to say, his life henceforth became one of charity and justice. When we allow ourselves to be embraced by the Lord and accept our true stature, our lives and hearts open up toward others in mercy as we seek out and care for the needy, and in justice as we dedicate ourselves to right wrongs.

In the Book of Wisdom we learn that God loves all that exists and detests nothing that he has made (cf. Wisdom 11:22 - 12:2). This is the basis of our true stature. Let us embrace it and live joyfully from this truth.