Archbishop Richard Smith says the WCR is situated within the Church's great ministry of communication launched by St. Paul.

Archbishop Richard Smith says the WCR is situated within the Church's great ministry of communication launched by St. Paul.

September 28, 2015
Here is the text of the homily which Archbishop Richard Smith, publisher of the Western Catholic Reporter, delivered Sept. 11 in a Mass marking the WCR's 50th anniversary.

The Scripture readings, which we just heard proclaimed, were not specifically chosen for our celebration. They are the readings assigned by the Lectionary for today.

Yet, even though they will be heard by people participating in Mass anywhere in the world today, nevertheless they have a striking application to our particular gathering to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Western Catholic Reporter. It is as if they were, indeed, chosen just for us.

Let's consider the First Reading (1 Timothy 1.1-2, 12-14). There we hear from the Church's Great Communicator, from St. Paul himself. He is speaking of his conversion.

From the moment of his life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ he knew, with every fibre of his being, that he was entrusted with announcing the news. Not just any news, of course, but good news, the only truly good news, which is the Gospel of our Lord.

When the WCR was founded 50 years ago, another Paul, Pope Paul VI, himself a great communicator, was at the helm of the Church. He famously stated that announcing the news, or to use a more theological term, evangelization, was nothing other than the very raison d'être of the Church. The Church exists to evangelize, to announce the news that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is the sole reason for hope.

It is within this great mission that the WCR situates itself. Its purpose, the reason for its being, is to announce the news, but not like any secular paper. In all that it reports, it has as its very centre the annunciation of the good news of our Lord.

If we spend more time with the First Reading, an essential dimension of the message, of this news, becomes clear. Paul identifies the cause of his conversion as mercy. Everything changed for him when, as he put it, "I received mercy."

Mercy, he discovered, has an extraordinary power to transform. By his own admission, he had been a man of violence, a blasphemer and a persecutor. That all changed, radically, when he encountered mercy.

The immediate applicability of Paul's situation to ours today escapes no one, I'm sure. People of violence abound everywhere. Think of the domestic violence that plagues so many of our homes in this city and province. Consider, too, the global violence perpetrated in countless venues, giving rise to the displacement of millions of people.

As to persecution, the former Saul's persecution of the Church continues today in a variety of forms, such as attacks against Christians, often with acts of horrifying brutality, or in the attempts here at home to marginalize the voice of the Church.

Blasphemy abounds, particularly when religion is used by some perversion of logic to justify violence, or when a secular culture no longer considers God in any way relevant to the determination of its direction or contours.

By sharing his experience of the transformative power of mercy, St. Paul announced a message of hope. In our day, the Church must do the same.

Since St. Paul felt powerfully impelled to announce his message, he took advantage of every means of communication available to him. He traveled thousands of miles, speaking wherever he had the opportunity. He understood well the power of the written word, and so wrote many letters to the nascent churches, such as the one to Timothy from which our First Reading was taken.

I have no doubt he would be all over social media today because of its unprecedented and unparalleled capacity to reach millions.

This same impulse inspired the establishment of the WCR, and it must continue to motivate us today. We at the WCR have been entrusted with the particular medium of the written word to announce the good news. By now turning to the Gospel (Luke 6.39-42), we learn that can only fulfill our responsibility effectively if we ourselves, like St. Paul, know the power of God's mercy in our own lives.

When Jesus tells us to attend to the log in our own eye before we dare to speak of the speck in someone else's, he is stating very clearly that there is no one who is not in need of the mercy of God, no one who is not in need of conversion. To think and act otherwise is hypocrisy.

Here we touch upon an essential quality of any Christian communicator: humility. When I recognize, and live from, the truth of my need for God's mercy, and allow that mercy to transform my life, then, and only then, can I become an effective communicator of mercy.

Furthermore, when I allow the Lord to touch me with his mercy and to remove the log from my eye, I begin to see clearly. From the life of St. Paul, we learn that clarity of sight gives rise to clarity of speech.

And clarity of articulation is needed in our day. We live in a world of noise, a modern day Tower of Babel. We need vehicles to cut through the racket and proclaim with great clarity the truth of God's mercy, the message that changes hearts and converts despair to hope.

To this mission the WCR has been dedicated since its inception. As we give thanks to God for his blessings, which have carried us to this moment, let's pray in our Mass today that he touch all of us anew with the gift of humble awareness of our need for him, for his mercy.

By the touch of his grace, may we grow in our call to be clear communicators of the news, the good news that hope has come to the world through the gift of mercy that God pours out upon the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.