Gospel offers alternative to 'shifting sands of change'

Archbishop Smith pours balsam into olive oil to make the holy oil of Chrism.

WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN

Archbishop Smith pours balsam into olive oil to make the holy oil of Chrism.

April 4, 2016
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The permanence and stability of the Gospel are signs of hope amidst "the shifting sands" of change which are producing "useless anxiety" among the people of our time, says Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith.

Just as Jesus bore faithful witness to the unchanging, permanent love of the Father, so too we must live "as faithful witnesses to the identity and mission entrusted to us," Smith said in his homily during the annual Chrism Mass.

"Hope is found when we encounter the unchanging and steadfast love of God revealed in Jesus Christ."

The archbishop listed various forms of change which are "giving rise to great hardship among the people."

The economy is a "present worry," while the call to move away from dependence on fossil fuels "engenders concern about the future," he said during the March 21 Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica.

The instability of governments has given rise to "heretofore unheard of numbers of displaced persons whose everyday lives can only be described as a terrifying question mark."

MOMENTOUS CHANGE

As well, "momentous change" is occurring on an existential level, he said.

"Law and society have presumed to change the definition of marriage," the archbishop said. Gender is no longer seen as a given fact, but as "something fluid" which is self-determined.

"Assisted suicide and euthanasia demonstrate clearly that communal respect for the dignity of every human life is no longer the bedrock principle of unity among citizens."

Hanna Shandi and Nash Shakkour, recently arrived Syrian refugees, receive the holy oils for St. Matthew Parish in Rocky Mountain House from Archbishop Richard Smith following the Chrism Mass March 21 at St. Joseph's Basilica.

WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN

Hanna Shandi and Nash Shakkour, recently arrived Syrian refugees, receive the holy oils for St. Matthew Parish in Rocky Mountain House from Archbishop Richard Smith following the Chrism Mass March 21 at St. Joseph's Basilica.

The effects of this upheaval on children are most troubling, Smith said. Many speak openly of depression or thoughts of suicide while some go to school early and come home late "to avoid a home environment that is anything but secure."

The archbishop's conclusion: "The ground beneath us feels like nothing more than shifting sands, even quicksand. There seems to be nothing solid to cling to for safety as we sink."

GROUNDING FOR HOPE

Yet, the Gospel offers "realities upon which we can rely. They dispel useless anxiety and they ground real hope."

Smith spoke of the Oil of Chrism which he was about to bless for its use in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders - three sacraments which have a permanent effect on the recipient and which can never be repeated.

Chrism "bestows on us a participation in Christ's own fidelity to his mission," he said. "Permanence and fidelity: These form the necessary counter-sign to the change and instability wreaking such havoc today."

Baptism sets us permanently apart for the mission of the Church, the archbishop said. Confirmation permanently seals and commissions us with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, priests are permanently empowered to teach, sanctify and govern in Christ's name, he said.

Jesus offers himself as the basis of our permanent fidelity to God, Smith said. "God calls in accord with his one, unchanging purpose. God does not revoke his choice or rescind his summons."

HOLY OILS

At the Chrism Mass, the archbishop blesses the holy oils of the Sick, Catechumens and Chrism for use in parishes across the archdiocese for the next year. After the Mass, he greeted parish representatives and gave each of them a set of the three oils.

As well, the Chrism Mass - a Mass which in the liturgical calendar is slated for Holy Thursday, but which most dioceses hold earlier in Holy Week - is the time when the priests of the archdiocese renew their priestly promises.

The archbishop thanked the priests who filled the sanctuary of the basilica, paying tribute to their good work, fraternal collaboration and steadfast dedication to others.

"The people of the archdiocese are very blessed to have you as theirs," he told them.