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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Know that the Lord is God

This is the command we heard as Psalm 100 was proclaimed on Sunday. Know that the Lord is God. The timing is providential. This past week saw the tabling by Canada's federal government of legislation to make legal in some cases assisted suicide and euthanasia. Known as Bill C-14, it bears the title: "An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and to Make Related Amendments to other Acts (medical assistance I dying)." A subtitle could be: Forget that the Lord is God.

Strange. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with this statement: "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law..." Yet the legal permission granted to assisted suicide and euthanasia is founded upon arguments that substitute the supremacy of God with that of the individual. We have moved from Know to Forget. The consequences are tragic.

When the Psalmist says "Know that the Lord is God," the call is not directed only to our intellect but to our whole lived experience. It means so fully to appropriate the truth of God's supremacy that it shapes the entirety of our lives. God is God; we are not. As the Psalm continues: God made us (we did not make ourselves); we are His people (we are not our own). Within such "knowing" that the Lord is God, there is obviously no space for the assertion of any right to take our own lives (suicide), to assist another person to take his or her own life (assisted suicide), or to kill another person (euthanasia). From this it follows that justification for these practices is premised on a denial of the supremacy of God, and this is a false premise.

Yet this is exactly what we see playing out in our beloved country right now. It is not difficult to detect a present echo of the ancient deception by the serpent, who seduced Adam and Eve into allowing their trust in God's love, wisdom and providence to die and thus into asserting themselves over against God.

The Psalmist continues: "For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." In the light of revelation brought to the world by Jesus Christ, St. John takes the assertion of God's love and goodness further: "God is love." (1John 4:8). Acknowledging the supremacy of God is no cause for fear. On the contrary, it is surrender of our lives into the hands of our Creator, who, in Jesus Christ, has manifested His tender mercy and loving desire to provide for our every need.

The Lord is, indeed, God. Let us know this fully, and never forget it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Heal the Family

I have been hosting throughout the Archdiocese a number of what we call "Conversations with the Archbishop". The urgent issue before us is the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, and we call this particular series of conversations Every Life Matters (ELM). These conversations allow opportunity for the voicing of questions or concerns and the reception of helpful feedback. On Friday last, right in the middle of the-ten day period over which these conversations are taking place, the apostolic exhortation of the Holy Father was released. Entitled Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), it deals with the issue of family life. This coincidence of themes - assisted suicide and family - underscores the relation between them.

Pondering the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia brings to the fore the urgent need to heal the family. Our ELM session yesterday in St. Mary's parish, Red Deer, involved presentations by a hospital chaplain and a physician who specializes in chronic pain management. As I listened to their presentations, I was struck by the frequent references to family and the influence that familial relationships have upon a person's decision-making in the midst of suffering or at the end of life. Particularly telling was the assertion by the physician that the reason most frequently given for an assisted suicide request is the fear not of suffering but of being a burden. I, too, have heard that often, together with the sad fact that many who seek such an end to their lives feel alone or abandoned by family members.

The legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia highlights our move as a society away from what should be the unassailable principle of the sanctity of every human life at every stage and in every circumstance. It is also bringing to light the urgent need to heal the family. This renders the release of Amoris Laetitia very timely for our country.

I hope you read this document from Pope Francis. It is lengthy, yes, but well worth the effort. Indeed, the Holy Father himself encourages us to read it slowly and reflectively, taking the time needed to appropriate prayerfully its teachings. I have read it through once, and want to return to it. Throughout this exhortation, the well-known pastoral heart of our Holy Father beats strongly. As I said yesterday in an interview with Salt and Light Catholic TV, reading it is like sitting down at the kitchen table with your grandfather, who knows what you are going through and who can offer sound counsel. The direction offered by Pope Francis is rooted in Scripture and our Catholic teaching, and is informed by his own experience as a pastor who has walked with many families in their difficulties.

It is a tragedy that abandonment or worry about being a burden is leading people to seek assisted suicide to end their lives. This sad reality gives dramatic urgency to the need to heal family relationships and help family members to discover and live the joy of authentic love. Pope Francis is helping us to do just that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Led to Faith

"My Lord and my God!" This is the cry of faith exclaimed by St Thomas. We heard the familiar account of his encounter with the Risen Lord in the Gospel of Sunday. It was quite a journey for Thomas to get to that point of acknowledging, with joy and awe, the truth of Christ. It began with his doubt concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For that reason we often refer to the episode as the narrative of "Doubting Thomas".

Yet the account is not, in the final analysis, about him. It is rather about the Lord. The primary actor is Jesus. He led Thomas to faith. Thomas did not get there on his own. Appreciating this, the episode becomes an important instruction to guide our own lives.

Doubt is not foreign to many of us. Many developments today tempt us to it: illness, family strife, worrisome societal change such as assisted suicide and euthanasia, world terrorism and so on. In the face of suffering, we might doubt the love of God, his power over evil, or his presence among us.

Thomas's experience teaches us two foundational lessons for those moments when we are plagued by doubt. The first is to stay within the Church. Thomas's doubt first arose because he had not been with the other apostles when the Risen Lord first appeared to them. His journey to faith took as its first step a return to apostolic communion. The second lesson is to allow Jesus to lead us to faith. By placing the hand of Thomas into his wounds, Jesus healed Thomas's wound of disbelief.

From this encounter of Thomas with the Lord and with the apostles there arise questions we can ask ourselves in times of doubt. Have I ceased thinking with the Church? Do I accept instead other voices as my standard of measure? Do I think that faith is something I have to achieve on my own? Have I forgotten that faith is a gift, and therefore neglected to ask the Lord to heal my wound of doubt by his own wounds of love?

Jesus longs for our faith. He will lead us to it if we but surrender to his prompting and seek him in that communion of apostolic faith called the Church.