Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 16, 2008
Prayer is the pathway to hope – Smith
Encyclical lets us know we are loved by God
"Pray with the Church. Let your prayer be guided by the Church."
Archbishop Richard Smith
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Pope Benedict's encyclical on hope "is not an intellectual exercise but a summons to the people of God to hope - to be people of hope," says Archbishop Richard Smith.
"The holy father wants all our people to discover or perhaps to re-discover the true, unshakable hope that comes from knowing that we are loved by God," the Edmonton archbishop told the provincial convention of the Alberta-Mackenzie Catholic Women's League.
"Hope redeems, hope saves; it changes our outlook and our lives and enables us to live joyfully and freely in the awareness that we are always the children of God. And this is the (kind of) hope that sustains and gives us strength in spite of any difficulties that we face."
Addressing the CWL delegates directly, Smith said, "you are a sign of hope for me as a bishop, a sign of hope for the conference of bishops and a sign of hope for the Church because you are a community of women that make no bones about it - you love the Lord, you love the Church, you love the faith, and you are quite willing and ready to stand up and speak for the faith in our country today."
Smith, who spoke on the pope's 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope), was one of several speakers at the CWL convention at Providence Renewal Centre June 5-8.
God makes it happen
We become hopeful when our lives are firmly anchored through faith in the love of God. But Smith said we do not anchor ourselves in the love of God.
"God, precisely because he loves us, makes that happen. And that happens first and foremost through an encounter. This is a key word in the teaching of Pope Benedict - encounter with Jesus Christ."
"So our great hope, the pope tells us, is God," he said.
"Without God we are without hope. And it can only be God because God is unconditional love, God is absolute love - a love that nothing can destroy, not even death."
But the hope of the Christian is not individualistic or ignorant of the problems and sufferings and the injustices of the world. "Our hope, born in faith, is not just for ourselves but a hope for others and indeed for the world. Hope that is not for others but only for myself that's not Christian hope."
In his encyclical the pope describes prayer as one of the settings in which we actually learn and practise hope.
"With respect to prayer he says two things: first of all, that prayer must be personal and that prayer must be a personal relationship with the Lord," Smith noted.
Pray with the Church
"But prayer must also be guided by the prayers of the Church. In other words, pray with the Church. Let your prayer be guided by the Church. If you are not in the habit of doing so it might be a good habit to develop - to meditate periodically on the prayers of the Church's liturgy, especially the prayers of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer above all."
The pope also says that in our personal prayer we must allow God to purify us from any desires that are not of God, the archbishop pointed out.
"In other words, in prayer we need to have the faith and the trust to allow God truly to look at us. Why? So that we can ask God to confront these myriad desires that are within us - desires for things that are not God's, desires sometimes for things that are not worthy of the Christian mind.
"We must allow God to purify us so that our desire is to desire that which God desires."
Added Smith, "The more we are able under God's grace to let go of all of these multiple desires that can distract us in many different directions and the more that we live our lives in tune with God's saving purpose then the more prayer becomes for us a real zenith in which we discover and learn hope."