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

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Cry for Mercy

In Sunday's Gospel passage we heard Jesus speak of his sheep, his followers, as those who listen to his voice. Where do we hear that voice? Jesus speaks to us, we know, in Sacred Scripture and through the teachings of His Church. We need also to remember that he speaks to us through the cries of the poor and suffering.

Many are the cries coming to us now from the people of Nepal. I'm hearing reports of more than 4000 dead from the recent earthquake, with the number expected to rise. And how many more are homeless!!!??? Let's not forget them. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development of Peace is now receiving donations for emergency relief, which will be channeled to those in need through the Church's Caritas Internationalis network. You may help via their website:

You will likely know by now that Pope Francis has declared a special Jubilee Year of Mercy. It will begin December 8th of this year and conclude November 20, 2016. He recently presented the Bull of Indiction for this special year. This is a document that gives an overview of the principal themes and initiatives for the year, together with desired spiritual outcomes. Among the latter, the Holy Father makes clear that he hopes all Christians will learn to adopt mercy as their lifestyle. A lifestyle of mercy! Think of that. What would it be like if our lives were marked not by aggression but by mercy; not by bitterness, but by mercy; not by selfishness, but by mercy? This would represent a beautiful and much-to-be-desired revolution in our relationships with one another, both locally and globally.

Mercy is something active. It is not a vague feeling of pity that we hold temporarily in our hearts while we continue living the way we have always lived. Mercy means taking the needs of the poor and suffering, such that we actually go out to them to offer assistance and seek to change their lot. Mercy moves us out of ourselves and towards the others. We see in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus how God is merciful toward us, and we hear from Jesus that we are to be merciful to one another.

So, let's be attentive to the cries of the suffering in Nepal. Neither may we forget the suffering elsewhere in the world, such as the Christians persecuted and killed in various parts of the world just because they are Christian; the victims of aggression in Ukraine; the migrants drowned in the Mediterranean; the millions of refugees fleeing war and terror, and so on. We can reach out to them in mercy when we give support to the work of agencies dedicated to bring help, such as Development and Peace, Aid to the Church in Need and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Mercy must characterize our familial relationships, too. In fact, the home must be the primary place of mercy. Too often do we hear of violence in the homes, or of the inability of family members to love and forgive one another.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not cease speaking to us. His voice reaches us through the cries of the poor. Are we listening and responding?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Better than a Lottery

There is great excitement in the hockey world this morning, especially among Edmonton Oilers fans. Yesterday the team won the NHL draft lottery, thus enabling the Oilers to choose the top draft pick in June. All eyes are on one player in particular, one of immense talent, and the Oilers are widely expected to choose him. It is giving rise to great hope for the future prospects of the team.

"Great hope" is what is announced in the Gospel passages of the Easter season. It is hope related not to a particular group of people, but to all of humanity. Furthermore, its foundation is immeasurably more secure that those grounding NHL team prospects.

The hope is for eternal life, announced in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Its foundation is the love and fidelity of God, who has promised from of old to save his people from their sins and lead them to life with Him forever, a promise fulfilled in the dying and rising of Jesus.

On what foundation am I placing my hopes? It is an important question, because we all need hope as we face a myriad of challenges. Is it on chance? The NHL lottery is not the only one on which many people generally are pinning their hopes. Is it on someone else's giftedness? This would certainly be more reasonable than "luck", and yet we know from experience that talent is but for a time and that people are not always "at the top of their game".

The reason for real hope is not any of these things. It is within us. And by that I do not mean that we can rely upon ourselves. Quite the opposite. I am referring to the wondrous mystery of Christ living within us by the gift of his Holy Spirit! Our hope is Jesus, period. He remains with us, as he promised. By the act of faith, we draw strength and hope from the power of his Cross and Resurrection. In short, faith in Christ is the only reliable basis for the hope that brings peace in the midst of our many difficulties and challenges.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Campaign of Eternal Import

Today in Alberta a provincial election has been called to take place May 5th. That means a month of campaign speeches, advertising campaigns, door-to-door visiting, and so on. All of this is aimed at winning votes. The political parties all hope to be elected to govern the province, and in the campaign can be expected to make more than a few promises. It is not unusual to hear people question the reliability of such pledges. More than a few say that such elections do not excite them.

It is ironic that the election call took place early in Easter week. What will capture the attention of Albertans over the next month is in stark contrast to the “election” celebrated by Christians in the fifty days following Easter. The former is aimed at securing a victory in political terms that will last but a time; the latter celebrates a victory already won and lasting into eternity.

From the beginning of time, God “elected” us to be with him forever. Therefore, in response to the sin of Adam and Eve, which separated humanity from God, he set in motion a “campaign”, a plan, whereby he would continually communicate to his people the message of his love and mercy, knocking without cease on the door of their hearts, promising again and again to bring them salvation. God is absolutely true to his promises. His pledges are, without doubt, fully trustworthy. So, true to his word, God the Father “elected” his Son to come to earth as our Saviour, born as Jesus of Nazareth from the Virgin Mary. In his turn, Jesus “elected” to be obedient in all things to the will of his Father, even to the point of death on the Cross. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead manifests God’s definitive victory over sin and death, and makes Jesus the fulfillment of the Father’s promises, “the source of salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9).

Furthermore, the victory of Jesus over death makes clear the full wonder of God’s original design for us. From the beginning, St. Paul tells us, God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1: 4-5) God chose us to be one with Jesus Christ so that, in Christ, we might be his children! Now and into eternity!! We have been elected by none other than God!!! He has chosen us, not for any merits on our part, not for our track record or on the basis of things we promise to do, but solely because of His love and mercy toward us.

And THAT is an election, which is truly exciting!!!