Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 7, 2007
Divine love is our 'energy resource'
God's love impels us to draw all peoples together in a communion of life and love
Following is the text of Archbishop Richard Smith's homily at his Mass of Installation as archbishop of Edmonton May 1 at St. Joseph's Basilica.
As we gather tonight for this Mass of Installation, I am pleased to greet and welcome all of you.
In a particular way I wish to greet his excellency, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, apostolic nuncio in Canada, and my brother bishops. I am grateful for your presence, which signifies both your fraternal support and the communion of our local churches with one another and the See of Rome.
Together with the clergy, religious and faithful of this archdiocese I extend warm greetings to the representatives of other Christian communities who are with us tonight, as well as to those of other faith traditions. Your presence honours us.
I welcome our special guests from the various levels of government and from the judiciary. The Church is always ready to work with you to further the common good.
I especially wish to greet the two bishops who took their place before me at this cathedra: Archbishop Thomas Collins and Archbishop Joseph MacNeil. It did not take me long to realize that many wonderful and inspiring things have taken place in this archdiocese under your leadership. I and the people of this local Church are immensely grateful to you.
In the presence of my family, who has come from Halifax to join us, I greet all of you as members of my new spiritual family. I am very happy to be here with you.
Alberta finds itself these days in a state of unprecedented growth. People are coming here from other provinces and countries, largely because of the energy resources upon which we have grown dependent. These resources are fuelling not only the economy but also the hopes and dreams of countless men and women for prosperity and happiness.
In our gathering tonight we are touched by an energy resource of an entirely different order. Here, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we encounter the mystery of divine love, revealed to the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this love we are created, and in this love we are recreated.
St. Paul, as he writes his second letter to the Christian community at Corinth, is caught up in the wonder of this love. It is an "energy resource" that impels us, he says, urges us on in our ministry. Anyone who has been touched by the love of Christ knows what the apostle means. A true encounter moves us to announce it to others and invite them to find in it, as we have found, the fulfillment of humanity's deepest longings.
The lives of many are impacted by the reserves of energy in our soil, but this is by no means the case for everyone. The resource of divine love, on the other hand, is, indeed, destined for all people. Reflecting upon the mystery of Christ's death, St. Paul proclaims the reach of God's love in Christ to be universal.
We are convinced, he says, that Christ has died for all people. We know, therefore, that God's love has as its object every man, woman and child in the world, and seeks to give them real life and abiding hope.
This love of God, because it is universal in its embrace, aims to draw all peoples and nations together in a communion of life and love. As many newcomers are drawn to this province, necessitating the expansion of present communities or the formation of new ones, the desire of God for the unity of his people sheds important light on all of our human efforts to support our life together.
We are very much aware of the need for infrastructure that facilitates our common life. Indeed, at this time of exponential growth, authorities are striving to expand our roads, power lines, water systems, and so on in order to meet some very real needs, like mobility and communication.
At the same time, we know that human beings need more than the ability merely to coexist with others. What is most deeply sought is communion, the desire for which is constitutive of human beings created in "the image and likeness of God."
Fashioned by God for communion, both with God and one another, we yearn to be part of a truly human community, in which the rights and dignity of every human being are honoured and valued. This is a need that no physical network can accommodate.
What is needed is an infrastructure that supports and makes possible a civilization of life and of love. From our encounter with God's love in Christ, we can specify this and say that we need an infrastructure of reconciliation, a network of relationships governed by justice and mercy, grounded in truth and love.
Plan of reconciliation
The blueprint for such an infrastructure is offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The heart of its message is God's plan of reconciliation centred on Christ, and the divine initiative taken to bring it about.
In the same letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul affirms that reconciliation is essentially God's accomplishment. God is at work, he tells us, reconciling the world to Christ, putting in place the infrastructure, if you will.
Through the paschal mystery, reconciliation has already been perfectly achieved in the very person of Jesus Christ. What remains is for every man and woman to be united by the Holy Spirit to Christ in his saving act, and thus be led to reconciliation with one another. In other words, God both provides the blueprint in the Gospel and works within us through the missions of the Son and the Spirit to accomplish his saving purpose.
Of course, acknowledgement of God's primary agency in the establishment of an infrastructure of reconciliation does not mean that we ourselves have no contribution to make.
Necessity of faith
Indeed, the very Scriptures that set forth the blueprint and announce the divine initiative also specify the raw materials that we bring to the construction. Tonight's Gospel passage highlights the necessity of faith. The reading from Genesis summons from us an active respect for human dignity. These are the essential "bricks and mortar," as it were, for our desired infrastructure.
By faith we open our hearts to the reconciling power of God's love. In the act of faith, which is itself enabled by grace, we surrender ourselves entirely to the unfolding of God's saving plan in us. We live henceforth by his power, which has as its goal the removal of any barriers that separate us from God or from one another.
The necessity of faith is given important emphasis in the passage proclaimed from St. Matthew. Those who listened to Jesus as he taught in his hometown synagogue did not place their faith in him. Consequently Jesus would do no mighty works among them.
The power of Christ's paschal mystery can accomplish the mighty work of reconciliation that we need and seek. That power is ushered into our lives and into our world through our response of faith.
The decision of Jesus not to do mighty works among those who heard him preach that day might at first seem to be a punishment for their lack of faith. In the light of our reading from Genesis, however, we recognize this choice of our Lord as an affirmation of human dignity.
The verses from Genesis speak of the human being as the one creature "made in the image and likeness of God." This means that the human being, alone among all creatures, is created by God for its own sake, and is given the capacity to receive the love of God and the freedom to enter by faith into a covenant of life and love with him.
Having been created "in the image and likeness of God," every man, woman and child is endowed with an inalienable dignity. By awaiting the free response of faith to his saving initiative, Jesus demonstrates his full respect for that dignity.
So, too, must we. An infrastructure of reconciliation cannot exist where respect for human dignity is lacking. It can become a reality if we learn to honour one another as children of God.
A great deal of work lies before us. We are witnessing in our day an enormous amount of labour activity, urged on by the real and potential benefits of our energy resources. Our call as a Christian people is to work mightily for the spread of the Gospel, urged on as we are by the truth of God's love.
In the midst of current efforts to extract happiness and security from the finite resources of the earth, we must invite all not to lose sight of the infinite heavenly resource that has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ, and to find in him the fulfillment of their deepest hopes.
As we continue with this all-important work, let us turn to St. Joseph, our patron, as both inspiration and model. We honour him today under his title of St. Joseph the worker.
He did, of course, labour as a carpenter. His most important work, though, was doing the will of God. In faith and obedience, he surrendered to the particular role assigned to him in God's plan of salvation and lovingly provided a home for the Word made flesh.
With the help of his intercession, may we, too, accept in faith and obedience the role God assigns to each of us, as together we announce the mystery of God's plan to fashion an infrastructure of reconciliation as the ground of true communion among his people.
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