The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

01 June, 2008 - IX Sunday of the year A

One beautiful Sunny Sunday morning recently, Father having just celebrated Mass at one place and was driving on to the next place when he spotted a farmer sitting on a baler in the field next to the road.

Recognizing the farmer as one of his parishioners, Father immediately pulled over and walked up to the fence. “Hey Bob”, He shouted, “It’s Sunday, shouldn’t you be sitting in church instead of sitting here on this baler?”

Bob slowly turned around and said “Well, Father I was just debating that point in my mind – whether or not it was better for me to be sitting here in the Sun on this baler and thinking about God or should I be sitting in church looking out the window and thinking about baling.”

Now, we all know that in this country you better make Hay while the sun shines or you could miss out on the precious second cut.

However, like Bob, we sometimes get our priorities mixed up.

Sometimes we forget what God requires of us and we tend to put our own needs ahead of God’s commandments.

What does the Lord our God require of us?

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, the Lord, through Moses, is telling us clearly what He the Lord requires of us.


What does the Lord our God require of us? The Bible tells us to fear the Lord our God …..

What do you think it means – to fear the Lord?

The Bible tells us that we fear the Lord our God by walking in all His ways, by loving Him and serving Him with all our hearts and souls and by keeping all His commandments and decrees. This is how we fear the Lord.

All of this is for our well-being – all of this for our eternal salvation!

The Lord wants us to put these words of His into hearts and souls, to bind them as a sign on our hands, to fix them as an emblem on our foreheads.

No human has ever lived who has walked in all His ways, loved God, served Him with all their heart and soul and kept His commandments like the one Human Being who is above all others save God Himself and that is Jesus’ Mother Mary.

She is the one who leads us to Her Son. She is the one whom God in His great mercy has given us as our adopted Mother to lead us Home. Mary Mother of Jesus – Mary Mother of God. Mary has the reputation of achieving what many believe is simply impossible.

The story is told that once upon a time, the Lord went walking through the streets of heaven, and He saw a lot of people who had no business being in heaven at all. So our Lord went to St. Peter who guarded the gates of heaven.

And the Lord said, "Simon Peter, I'm disappointed in you. There are people
here who shouldn't have been admitted, yet you let them in." "

Lord, it's not my fault. I had nothing to do with it" "Well, who let them in?" "I don't want to tell you, because I'm not sure how you will take it." "You should tell me. I have a right to know."

"All right, if you must know. I tell those folks they can't get in. But then they go around to the back door and your mother lets them in."

Now I don’t think that that is exactly how it happens but there is no doubt that through Mary’s intercession to her Divine Son on our behalf many souls have been saved.

When the Holy Spirit touched the womb of Mary two thousand years ago, the Virgin predicted, "All generations will call me blessed." She was absolutely right. Of all the women who have ever lived, the mother of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated, the most portrayed, the most honored in the naming of girl babies and churches. Even the Moslems honor her, strengthened by the fact she is mentioned thirty-four times in the Koran.

The late twentieth century has become the age of the Marian pilgrim¬age. Examples: Attendance at Lourdes has jumped ten percent to 5.5 mil¬lion annually. Many of these are people twenty-five or younger.

The young ones dance, sing, and praise out loud exuberantly. At Fatima, over 4.5 million pilgrims a year visit. In Czestochowa, Poland, the stream of pilgrims has increased to over five million a year. In Emmitsburg, Maryland, the number has suddenly doubled to over 500,000 a year at their national shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Most astonishing of all, over ten million people flocked to Guadalupe last year to pray to Our Lady.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about Mary's role in the Church and the history of salvation.

In Mary we behold what the Church is already like during the pilgrimage of faith - and what the Church will become at the end of the journey. Mary is an icon of the Church as well as sign of hope and comfort for all of us.

The church rightly honors Mary with special devotion.

For many years, the late father Patrick Peyton preached the power of the Rosary under the motto "The Family That Prays Together Stays Together." His vibrant devotion to Mary inspired hundreds of thousands of families to turn to Mary to help them with family stability and the acquiring of family values.

The need for family devotion to Mary is greater today than ever. Each time we turn to Mary she brings us closer to Jesus. Two thousand years after the Nativity, the mother is Jesus is more beloved and powerful than ever.

Look again upon the face that most resembles the face of Christ. Only through Mary's brightness can you most prepare to see the face of Jesus.
Here with us today we have the Icon of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba (Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre) may not be as well known in our culture as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
But one can find Our Lady of Charity’s image in churches around the world.
A popular image of Our Lady of Charity includes a banner above her head with the Latin phrase “Mater Caritatis Fluctibus Maris Ambulavit” (Mother of Charity who walked on the road of stormy seas).
Since September, the Knights of Columbus have been spreading this devotion to Our Lady of Charity by bringing the Icon to various parishes. This is done to promote a return to the praying of the Rosary and other Marian devotions. This yearlong, rosary-centered event is being offered for the intentions of Pope Benedict XVI.

The story of Our Lady of Charity is a rather simple one. Like many other Marian apparitions, it occurred in a nameless place and involved ordinary people.
Around the year 1600, three boys were sent to gather salt needed to preserve the meat of the town’s slaughterhouse, which supplied food for the workers and inhabitants at the Spanish copper mines near Santiago, Cuba.
Two of the boys were native Indians and brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and the third was a 10-year-old black slave, Juan Moreno.
On their way back to Santiago del Prado (modern El Cobre) and halfway across the Bay of Nipe, they encountered a fierce storm that threatened to destroy their frail boat.
Suddenly, the waters calmed. In the distance the boys saw a white bundle floating on a piece of wood that they mistook for a sea bird. In reality, it was a small statue of Mother Mary holding the infant Jesus in her left arm and a gold cross in her right. Inscribed on the wooden board were the words in Spanish “I am the Virgin of Charity”.
The youths brought the statue back to their village, where a chapel was built and the image venerated by all who heard the story. Much like Our Lady of Guadalupe for the Mayan Indians, Our Lady of Charity instantly became a pilgrimage site, a reminder for the underprivileged that their heavenly Mother cared and stood beside them.
As always Mary hears our prayers and is always ready to dispense the graces necessary so that we may always do the will of our Father in Heaven.
Today's Gospel from St. Matthew has Jesus clearly stating what is the will of His Father in heaven.

Jesus says, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one, who does the will of my Father in heaven.

And, what would you say is the will of the Father in Heaven for you according to the Bible?

Our first clue is when Jesus warns us that at the end many will call Him Lord, Lord and claim that they prophesied in His name, and cast out demons in His name and did many deeds of power in His name.

In other words they worshipped God not as He would have them worship Him in Spirit and truth but rather they worship Him as they insist that He should be worshipped – they follow the false Shepherds who tell them what they want to hear rather than that which they need to hear.

But Jesus will declare to these people, I never knew you. Go away from Me, you evildoers.

As it says in 2 Timothy 2:19 The Lord knows those who are His. God cannot be deceived. What God requires is words plus deeds. There is only one proof of love and that is when we are faithfully obedient just as Mary was and is.

Jesus says, Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise person who built their house on rock.

The Rock is Christ! We read this in 1 Corinthians 3:11, For no other foundation can one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Then the rain of the flesh, the floods of the world, and the winds of the devil cannot harm us.

Whereas the foolish person who builds a house on sand, a person who follows the opinions of the world, a person who dissents from Church teaching in order to make God conform to their own way of thinking, that person is the one who hears the words of Jesus but, does not act on them in accordance with God’s will.

The rain, the floods, and the winds of the world will beat against that house and it will fall, and great, will be its fall!

The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles taught and what the Bible teaches:
That we are saved by grace alone and not by faith alone. Whatever was necessary to make up for human sin, God supplied Himself.

Our task, as those who receive God's unde¬served mercy, forgiveness, and love, is to accept God's free gift in faith just as Mary did.

We lay hold of God's gift of faith. This faith is a personal relationship of trust.
The test of this relationship is in how we live our daily life.

Faith without works is dead. With true faith we are building our house on rock.

When we come to God then and are justified (that is we enter a right relationship with God – and if we have sinned seriously – we can do this through the sacrament of reconciliation) – nothing preceding justification, whether it be works or faith, earns grace.

But then God in His great mercy, plants His love in our hearts and so we should live out our faith by doing acts of love.

Even though only God’s grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please Him, and He promises to reward these acts of love with eternal life.

Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer Him. Then He gives us the grace to obey His commandments.

We do not earn our salvation through good works but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life.

As, we pray then, and we ask Mary to intercede for us, that we may do God’s will in our life and not our will in God’s life, let us remember that such prayer is prompted and assisted by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says that no one can say “Jesus is Lord, unless they are under the influence of the Holy Spirit”.

To God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - the prayer of the Christian who is living and praying in accordance with God’s will - such prayer is always pleasing to God.

Because of this God knows what the Spirit means and such prayers are always pleasing to Him.

Moses spoke to the people and said “So, now Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you?

Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and His decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.

The Baltimore Catechism sums all of this it up by telling us that God made us to Know Him, to Love Him, and to Serve Him in this world so that we might be happy with Him forever in the next.

We must therefore do just as Mary did – we must give our free assent to God’s Holy will in our lives – if we do this – then our eternal destination will be the same as Mary’s. We will rejoice with her and all the saints in heaven for all eternity.

Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre – Pray for us!

Deacon Bernad Ouellette

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Deut 8, 2-3. 14-16; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 10, 16-17; John 6, 51-58

"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day: for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them."

"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake (share in) one bread."

As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves 1 Cor 11:26-29

Eucharist the center of our life

Two Sundays ago we celebrated Pentecost and last Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Blessed Trinity and now we commemorate the Blessed Eucharist. There is a certain logic in this sequence of celebrations.

Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church and on the Feast of the Blessed Trinity we look at the very nature of God himself. Today in the Feast of Corpus Christi we examine how God continues to make himself present to his Church, how he sustains and nourishes us. And he achieves all this principally through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Incoherence, inconsistency of our life

While we cannot judge another person's soul, still we recognize that those involved in certain actions should not come forward for Communion.

You may have heard about bishops admonishing certain politicians not to receive Communion. In this instance the politicians had taken public stands promoting abortion. Since one is Democrat and the other Republican, clearly the bishops are not acting in a partisan manner. Still, the bishops' action surprised some people. What business, they ask, do the bishops have telling someone they should not receive Communion?

The popular perception sees caring liberal bishops welcoming Catholic politicians regardless of their abortion orientation to receive Communion while heartless conservative bishops use confrontation at the altar rail as an opportunity to embarrass and harass political leaders who cross them on their hobbyhorse of opposing a woman's 'right to choose'.

From the earliest days of the Church, receiving Holy Communion unworthily has been forbidden; forbidden out of concern for those who would make such unworthy communions. St. Paul in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians wrote: "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
From this perspective, Bishops who treat Catholic politicians who support abortion as if they were in full communion with the Church are neglecting their pastoral concern and charity for their wayward spiritual children.
The November 2007 video shows Cardinal Arinze eliciting much laughter and applause when he made the analogy, "To the person who says, 'Personally I'm against abortion, but if people what to do it, I'll leave them free', you could say, 'You are a member of the senate or the congress, personally I'm not in favour of shooting the whole lot of you, but if somebody else wants to shoot all of you in the Senate, or all of you in Congress, it's just pro-choice for that person, but personally, I'm not in favour.'

Actually, the bishops were acting out of a long tradition. St. Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves carefully before receiving Communion. Otherwise instead of receiving a blessing they might bring condemnation upon themselves. And St. Paul identified at least one person who should not be part of the Church's communion. St. Paul was not acting on his own. Jesus practiced a similar tough love.

Part of our problem - at least in the United States - is that we have lost the sense of coherence between Communion and the rest of ones life. I would like to mention this Sunday that other acts also exclude a person from Communion. For example, a couple living together without sacramental marriage should not come forward for Communion. If someone has missed Sunday Mass without a sufficient reason, they should not receive Communion until they have gone to confession. At their annual meeting, the American bishops published a document titled "'Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper': On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist." It gives specific guidance on who may receive Communion and when a person should refrain.

The bishops were careful to stress that you and I should not set ourselves as judges of those who come forward for Communion. For example, a couple may not be in a sacramental marriage, but they may have made a special pledge to live as brother and sister. That would between them and their pastor. If one does have a concern about whether someone else should refrain from Communion, the first thing to do is to pray. Maybe you are not the right one to approach that other person. Maybe God will sense someone else on account of your prayer. And maybe he will open a door for you to gently guide the other person. It would be a great act of love.

In today's Sequence, St. Thomas mentions that some receive Communion for salvation, others to their damnation. The greatest thing you can do for another person is to be an instrument setting them on the path to salvation. That is what the bishops were doing when they admonished Catholic politicians who are promoting abortion. We are not here to make people into Democrats or Republicans. We are here to help people become saints. Someday the Republicans and Democrats will be as long forgotten as the Whigs and the Know Nothings. But the saints will shine like unquenchable stars.

This Sunday we celebrate the great gift of Communion. Let's humbly ask the Lord that we may receive him in a way that will lead us to salvation.

The Church is the Body of Christ

For the Child:

Thanksgiving after Receiving Holy Communion

Dear Jesus, I believe that You are present within my heart.
You said, "This is My Body and My Blood."
And I know You love me and want to be with me.
From my heart, I thank You for all You have given to me: my life, my parents, my health, Baptism, protection, and all that I have.
Make me more grateful still.

Generous Lord, I ask for still more: Protect my soul and body.
Be good to those I love. Grant me this special favor. (mention it here)
Watch over me and make me good and happy.
Jesus, I promise to receive You often in Holy Communion.
Remain with me, dear Jesus, today and always.
Never leave me in life and be with me in the hour of my death.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Holy Trinity Sunday - May,18th 2008
Exodus 34, 4-6, 8-9; Daniel 3, 52-56; 2 Cor 13, 11-13; John 3, 16-18
In the Gospel of St. Mark we have the story about Jesus asking his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”
And his disciples answered and said: “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah, or other of the old prophets.”

And so Jesus asked them: “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said:
"You art the consubstantial Logos, existing in the Father, Who is the pure self subsisting existence and You are His logically no contradictory rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated (but not created), in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and inter-penetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the self existing substance no longer simple."

And Jesus answering, said, "What? Are you OK, Peter?"


The word "Trinity," what does it mean? Does it mean that God is a mystery? No! Is the Blessed Trinity another Person of God? No! Then, what is it? The root of the word "Trinity" originates from the Latin word "trini" which means "three each," or "threefold." "The term has been used as early as the days of Tertullian (200 A.D.) to denote the central doctrine of the Christian religion. God, who is one and unique in His infinite substance or nature, or Godhead, is three really distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these Persons is truly the same God, and has all His infinite perfections, yet He is really distinct from each of the other Persons. The one and only God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; yet God the Father is not God the Son, but begets the Son eternally, as the Son is eternally begotten. The Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but a distinct Person having His Divine nature from the Father and the Son by eternal procession." (The New Catholic Dictionary, Van Rees Press, NY, Copyright 1929)

In other words, in Jesus dwells the Father and the Holy Spirit. And the same can be said about the Father and the Holy Spirit. In each one dwells the other two Persons of God. This truth is supported by a verse in The Letter of Paul to the Colossians. "In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." [Col. 1:19; 2:9] "All the fullness of God means the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Already this short presentation of the catholic dogmatic teaching about the Holy Trinity shows us how incompetent, inept and even useless or hopeless is our human language. But try please to define or to describe only the human reality of love, the mother’s love of the child, the husband’s love of his spouse, the love between bride and bridegroom. And you will find the same difficulties and problems to express in our human language the reality which is however purely human. So what about the reality of God? Is our human reason and language competent in trying to describe the uncreated reality of GOD?

The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, who wanted so much to understand the doctrine of the Trinity and to be able to explain it logically. One day as he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this, he suddenly saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a whole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little shell, filled his shell, came and poured it into the hole he had made in the sand. Back and forth he went to the sea, filled his shell and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine went up to child and said, "Little child, what are doing?" and the child replied, "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole." "How do you think," Augustine asked her, "that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny shell?" To which the child replied, " And you, how do you suppose that with this your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?" With that the child disappeared.

Like Augustine we may not be able to understand the how of the Trinity but I think it is very important to understand the why. Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of the Supreme Being? The importance of this doctrine lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we can understand ourselves. Experts in religion tell us that people always try to be like the God they worship. People who worship a warrior God tend to be warriors, people who worship a God of pleasure tend to be pleasure-seeking, people who worship a God of wrath tend to be angry people, etc. Like a God, like the worshipers. So the more important question for us to ask today is: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the God and what does this say about the kind of people we should be? And here I have tree points to share with you.

1. God does not exist in isolated individualism but in a community of relationships. In other words, God is not a loner or a recluse. This means that a Christian in search of Godliness (Matthew 5:48) must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world like that of certain Buddhist monastic traditions where the quest for holiness means withdrawal to the Himalayas away from contact with other people and society.
2. True love requires three persons. You remember the old saying "Two is company, three is a crowd." The Trinity shows us that three is community, three is love at its best; three is not a crowd. Taking an example from the human condition we see that when a man is in love he looks for a woman so that together they can create a child, the third person. Father, mother and child — love when it becomes complete becomes a trinity. In this context we can ask: “the abortion, the killing of an unborn child, the third person of the conjugal trinity … is it not an offense to God?”
Over and above that, each one of us becomes fully human only when we are in relationship with God and in relationship with others. In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God. Then we discover that the I-and-I principle preached by Bob Marley and practiced by the society at large leaves much to be desired. The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt rather an I-and-God-and-neighbor principle. I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people. May the grace of the Holy Trinity help us to banish all traces of selfishness in our lives and to live in love of God and of neighbor.

3. The Eucharist: During the institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus "took a loaf of bread, and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.'" [Lk. 22:19] In the mystery of the Consecration of the Bread and Wine, they become the physical Body and Blood of Christ who remains with us today. As Jesus said when departing from this world, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." [Mt. 28:20b] In the Holy Eucharist is manifested the fullness of the Blessed Trinity. As the Father and the Holy Spirit dwelled in Jesus while He walked the earth, the Father and the Holy Spirit dwell in Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the fullness of the Blessed Trinity being manifested bodily.

At Confirmation, the archbishop asked the children for a definition of the Holy Trinity. A girl answered very softly, "The Holy Trinity is three Persons in one God." The archbishop, who was almost deaf, replied, "I didn't understand what you said." And the young theologian before him replied, "You are not supposed to. The Trinity is a mystery."

The teaching about the Trinity is one of the most fundamental in our Christian faith. We often refer to it as a 'mystery' and therefore something which can be affirmed but cannot be fully understood, still less fully explained. In the Christian Testament, the word 'mystery' primarily refers not to something which is obscure and difficult to understand but, on the contrary, to something, formerly hidden, which is now being made known to those on the "inside", something which we otherwise would not know.

The Trinity, namely, that God is triune, one in three Persons, is really a mystery in this sense. We could not know about it, if we had not been told. Of course, it is also difficult for us to see how one being can be three persons just as it is difficult for us to understand how Jesus can be both God and a human person (the 'mystery' of the Incarnation).

But we have to ask us some more fundamental questions: Does it really “mystery” contradict or challenge the human reason? Is it not rather our style of life -full of moral contradictions- which truly challenge our reason? The mystery of faith doesn’t contest our human reason. Is it not rather our human cruelty and egoistic style of life which contradict our human reason?

The mystery of faith is not contradicting, offending or opposing our rational faculty but it is rather showing that we have the truly infinite perspectives if only we don’t contradict God’s commandments and God’s love. Human reason is contradicted rather by sin, immorality and pride than by the mystery of faith.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pastoral Letter to the People of the Archdiocese of Edmonton

Version for printing

Dear Faithful People in Christ,

In St. Paul’s first letter to the Christian community at Corinth he speaks beautifully of the wonderful diversity of gifts given to the Church for the service of God and His people: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4- 6.) We celebrate on Pentecost Sunday the bestowal of the Holy Spirit to the Church and the gifts He instills in the disciples of Jesus Christ. I give God thanks for what is truly a wonderful variety of charisms and good works among the faithful of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. From the Christian witness I have encountered during my first year as your Archbishop, it is clear that many of you have been touched and transformed by the beauty of the Gospel. Through this letter I wish to thank you for your wonderful service to the Church. At the same time I wish to invite you to participate in an important initiative by which we can share with others the joy that we have found in our encounter with Jesus Christ. Our parishes are led by dedicated priests, who are my principal collaborators in my mission as Shepherd of this Archdiocese. From the time of my installation as Archbishop, they have welcomed me warmly and expressed in a variety of ways their readiness to work with me in the service of the Gospel. Called by Christ to collaborate with the Bishop in the teaching, sanctification and governance of God’s holy people, they are entrusted with a task that is both joyful and challenging. I am grateful for their presence and ministry in our local Church.

Many communities of religious women and men serve here in the Archdiocese. Their very presence among us, with their witness of total consecration to Christ and the Church, is a beautiful and necessary sign of the self-emptying love of Christ that brought us life. We recognize with gratitude all that we have received from the self-offering of countless sisters, brothers and priests in religious life. A constant source of encouragement and edification for me is the enthusiasm that many of our lay people have for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout the past twelve months I have been an appreciative eyewitness to the service of lay women and men in our parishes, Archdiocesan offices and consultative bodies, schools, hospitals and associations. In many ways they give convincing witness to their faith in Christ. A particularly effective testimony is offered in the loving care extended to people in need. Through the outreach of our institutions and various parish-based initiatives, Christian love embraces immigrants, the homeless, families in difficulty, people suffering from addictions, troubled youth, women or men in need of protection, prisoners, and the sick. By means of partnership with parishes and associations abroad, we are reaching out to brothers and sisters in other countries who have a particular need for concrete help. A variety of groups serve the cause of life and thereby give wonderful and necessary witness to the dignity and sanctity of human life from its beginning to natural end. An especially exciting gift of God to the Archdiocese at this time in our history is the opportunity to construct a new seminary and theological college. We have been blessed with the responsibility of creating a new home for our seminarians and an educational and formative environment for them and for lay students of theology. Many are involved in this project. The gift of their competence, professionalism and enthusiasm assures me of the success of this endeavour. From the many conversations on this topic, it is clear that the people of this Archdiocese appreciate the great opportunity we have to build something whose beauty will testify to that of our faith for years to come. Please keep this project in your prayers.

We are deeply aware, of course, that Christ is Head of His Church and that, apart from Him we can do nothing (cf. John 15: 5). Therefore let us give thanks to our Lord, who has richly blessed this Archdiocese through the Holy Spirit He sends from the Father. At the same time let us with confidence turn to Him in prayer for the particular gifts we need to face the challenges that lie before us. Our fundamental call and challenge is the proclamation of the Gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ is a message of real hope, since it communicates the truth of God’s all-powerful love, unveils the dignity and destiny of His children, and assures us of the liberating presence of the Lord in the circumstances of our lives. It falls to us to announce that hope to the men and women of our day, who need to hear and appropriate it for the transformation of their lives. For this reason Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have summoned us, together with the whole Church, to a new evangelization. The Church exists to evangelize, that is, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. We have done so from the beginning. By “new” is meant the discerning of fresh and effective ways to be renewed in our love and knowledge of the Lord, and to make Jesus known in our day so as to invite others to find in Him the source of real hope and the way to the fullness of life.

That everyone in this Archdiocese might embrace this call with joy and enthusiasm, I am announcing today an initial five-year process for the new evangelization in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. In this time we shall rediscover together the beauty of knowing Jesus Christ and the rich treasury of faith that comes to us from the Apostles. This renewal in the love of Christ and the faith of the Church will, by the grace of God, inspire us to new ways of sharing this good and life-giving news with the men and women of our day.

Beginning this Fall, each of the five years will be devoted to reflection upon a particular dimension of our faith. The centre of it all, of course, will be the Person of Jesus Christ. Our hope and prayer will be to encounter Him anew as Son of God and Saviour. To prepare the way, we shall begin in the first year with reflections upon the mystery of the human person, created by God and saved in Jesus Christ. The second year will then be directed to a new proclamation of Jesus, who alone is the answer to the questions and the fulfillment of the hopes of human life. This will be followed by a year dedicated to the Church, understood and lived as the mystery of communion in Christ. Our fourth year will focus upon the life of grace, that is, life lived as a disciple of Jesus Christ guided by the Holy Spirit. Finally we shall reflect upon the mission of the Church, called to witness before the world to the truth of God’s love revealed in Christ. Speakers and witnesses will be invited to present the doctrine of the Church in all of its radiance and testify before us to the beauty of the life of faith. Everyone in the Archdiocese will have an opportunity to hear these presentations and to consider how the Lord is calling each of us to a rebirth of hope and joy.

The title I have given to this endeavour is “Nothing More Beautiful …” These words are borrowed from Pope Benedict XVI, who, in his homily at the Mass to inaugurate his ministry as the Successor of St. Peter, said: “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.” My prayer is that, through our reflection together upon the great treasure of our faith, we shall encounter anew the person of Jesus Christ and thus be inspired to share the good news of His love with all in need of hope.

There are many aspects of our society that cry out for this hope. Think, for example, of those uprooted from their families to find employment here at this time of economic growth; of the many people anxious and worried about the lack of affordable housing; or of others caught in the false promises of gambling and other forms of addiction. Never far from our minds and hearts are the many young people, even within our own schools, who do not yet know the Lord and the joy of life in His Church. In order to bring to these and others the good news of the Gospel, we ourselves need to be seized once again by its beauty. Our embracing of the new evangelization, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, will make this possible.

More details will be given in the Fall. For now, I invite you to pray often to the Holy Spirit for the success of this project. May He lead us anew to an encounter with Christ, in whom we see the Father and are truly satisfied (cf. John 14: 8-11).

I am deeply grateful to the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of this local Church. In many ways I have encountered in you a love for the Lord and His Church that inspires your committed service of God’s people and gives me great hope. From this I am confident that we shall embrace with enthusiasm the call to proclaim anew the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

† Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
Edmonton, Solemnity of Pentecost, May 11, 2008

Friday, May 02, 2008

03 MAY, 2008 - The Ascension

Version for print here

Today we celebrate Christ's ascension. Let this be clear - there was something very new and wonderful when Jesus returned to His heavenly Father. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity left heaven to take on a human body born of the Virgin Mary and was named Jesus. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity remained in heaven as a member of the Holy Trinity but He also began to live on earth as Jesus, true God and true man. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He, as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, came with His glorified body, the body that hung on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead. He came with His five wounds that would forever serve as trophies of His victory over sin and death. This feast then celebrates Christ's final departure from earth and also His exalted position seated at God's right hand. In the Apostles Creed we pray, "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father."

In that Creed we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son Of God and that He came to earth being born of the Virgin Mary. He is both Divine and Human. We acknowledge that He is our Lord and Saviour. What we must keep in mind, however, is that Jesus is active in this position. The very fact that He appeared to the apostles over the span of forty days shows this.

While on earth Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit AFTER He had ascended to His Father. This He did after the Ascension. He promised to prepare a place for the apostles so that where He was they would eventually be. He "always lives to make intercession" for "those who draw near to God through Him." He is the one mediator between God and man. Finally Jesus also promised to be with His Church to the end of time . We believe everything that the Scriptures tell us about Him and everything that the Scriptures tell us that He said and did. This is what makes us Catholic Christians and we proudly proclaim the same – meaning every word that we say. It is important therefore that we know what we are saying and we understand what we are saying in the Creed because to be a Christian is to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Saviour, but to be a Catholic Christian is also to acknowledge that the Catholic Church is the one true Church that Jesus established.

Now my purpose here is not to play the Catholic Church against all other Christian denominations but rather to present to you the argument that to deny the authority of the one Church that Jesus Christ established is to deny the authority of the one who established her – the one who is head of His body the church. And not only deny Jesus’ authority but ultimately His divinity also.

If we deny that the Church has full authority to teach the truth and that all she teaches is the truth – or if we dissent from the teaching of the truth or from the Church’s authority – then ultimately what we are denying is the Divinity of Christ Himself. For as St. Paul says in today’s reading Christ is the Head of His body the Church and He promises to remain with her and protect her until the end of the age. As Catholics we fully accept and understand the fact that Jesus is Divine and that if He is the Son of God as we so proudly proclaim Him to be then we must also acknowledge that He has divine power - to safeguard His One True Church He clearly intended to establish and be with until the end of time.

But safeguard the Church from what and for what?

From the New Testament we learn that Jesus gave special and highly significant emphasis to the word "truth." He tells Pilate that He has come to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), and He tells His disciples that they will know the truth and the truth will set them free (John 8:32).

On the night of His betrayal He tells His disciples that He will send them the Spirit of Truth who will teach them "all things " remind them of all Jesus has told them (John 14:26) and guide them "into all the truth" (John 16:13). Note that little word "all," repeated three times. Then, in His prayer to His Father, Jesus asks that His disciples be sanctified (made holy) and consecrated (set apart) in the truth. Not in goodness or virtue or love, but in the truth.

The truth matters so much to Jesus that He calls Himself - the Truth. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. In His meeting with the Samaritan woman, He says that His Father seeks "true worshippers" who will worship Him "in spirit and in truth". Not only that, but He calls the devil not the Father of Sin or of Wickedness, but the Father of Lies. To drive the point home Jesus says that Satan "has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him" (John 8:44).

So if the truth is as important as Jesus says it is, and the enemy is not some amateur liar but the very Father of lies, then the battle-lines are clearly drawn and the only question remaining is: does Jesus have what it takes to protect His Church from this enemy?

Scripture gives us two images of the Church that are especially pertinent here. Whether we see the Church as the Bride of Christ and Jesus as the Bridegroom (Eph. 5:25, Rev. 21: 2) (Matt. 9:15) or as the sheepfold and Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), His role as protector is paramount. His defense of His Bride, His defense of His flock is not abstract or theoretical; it is intensely personal, because the Father of Lies is a real and deadly enemy, whose chief weapon is falsehood.

Jesus takes this threat to His Church personally.

And in His prayer to the Father on the night of His betrayal, right after asking that His disciples be "kept from the evil one"- that is, protected from the Father of Lies - He gives the means by which this protection will be instituted: they are to be sanctified in the truth. So Jesus tells us who the enemy is, and what He as Bridegroom will do to safeguard his Bride: He will send the Holy Spirit of Truth, the one who sanctifies us in the truth. Nowhere does Jesus promise us a Church without sinners or dissenters - on the contrary, as He teaches us in the parable of the wheat and tares – The farmer lets the weeds grow up with the wheat because uprooting the weeds might damage some of the wheat.

The farmer waits until harvest time. Then He will separate the wheat from the weeds, the obedient from the disobedient, and gather the wheat into His barn and then He will cast the weeds into the fire. Jesus promises us a Church which will be without lies, a church guided by the Spirit of Truth. St. Paul must have understood our Lord well, since He refers to the Church as the "pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). Where could he have gotten such a notion except from the one who promised to send the Holy Spirit of Truth?

If we accept the divinity of Christ then we accept His divine capacity to personally defend, protect and preserve His Church from the enemy. If He cannot do that, then He may be a shepherd, but certainly not a divine one; a bridegroom, but only human. If He cannot keep His flock safe from falsehood, then that means the Father of Lies wins and Jesus, whoever He is, is not the Lord. But we believe and we proudly profess together that because Christ is the Divine Bridegroom and the Divine Shepherd, the Catholic Church is exactly what she claims to be and who Sacred Scripture tells us that she is: Christ's beloved Bride, His cherished flock, protected by the Spirit of Truth and therefore infallible in matters of faith and morals. If the Church is not infallible, Jesus is not God, and the Holy Spirit is not the Spirit of Truth.

Jesus, as Lord, is also the Lord of History.

Why is this? Well, Jesus promised to be with his Church until the end (Matt. 28:20) and so His divine shepherding takes place in time, as history unfolds. The Father of Lies is and will be a constant threat until the end, until Jesus returns in glory. Now how can Jesus be the Lord of History if the Church did not have the truth from the very beginning ? How can Jesus be the Lord of History if the Church did not have the truth until Luther came along 1500 years later, or Zwingli or Calvin? Or any other person in our time who dissents from the truth or those who teach God’s children to dissent from the truth.

If the Church has not been under the constant vigilant guidance of the Holy Spirit of Truth since day one and remain in the Truth for every second, then Jesus is not the Lord of History, and if He is not the Lord of History, He is not the Lord. Although Jesus did say He came to bring not peace, but the sword of division, we know that the division He speaks of refers not to the Church, but to the separation between the Church and the world. Jesus makes clear that being sanctified in the truth is to be one, as the Father and He are one. Truth and unity go together: there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16). Lies, dissent, disobedience and disunity all go together – all are a product of the Father of Lies. Dissenters are not new. They have been with the Church since the beginning. One of their deceptions is that they teach that it is ok to dissent from the teachings of the church or that we are required to dissent.

St. Paul remarked on the connection between false teaching and disunity at the very beginning of the Church: "I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you so that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (1 Cor. 11:18-19).
What does St. Paul mean when he says the genuine ones? Who are these "genuine" ones? They are the ones in possession of the truth. And how may we recognize them? They are those who obey the teaching of the apostles, chief of whom is Peter, and their successors, the bishops, chief of whom is the pope.

Vatican II’s Document Lumen Gentium teaches us this :
“Fully incorporated into the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who – by the bonds instituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion – are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the Bishops”.

And why do these genuine ones, that is Catholics who are in full communion, freely give their obedience? Full communion means those who fully accept all that the Church teaches. They give their obedience because Jesus is God the Son and He really did what He said He would do: establish his Church on Peter the Rock, and send us the Holy Spirit of Truth to lead the Church into the fullness of truth and protect and preserve her from the Father of Lies.

Therefore just as there are always those who dissent and those who teach dissent there will also always be some who have the fullness of truth and who listen and obey their shepherd for if the sheep can't tell who is teaching the truth, the flock is lost. You can't be just a little bit pregnant. You are either pregnant or you are not. And if the Catholic Church is really the Church established by Jesus who really is Lord, it can't just possess a bit of the truth. It either has all the truth or it does not. When it comes to faith and morals the Catholic Church cannot be right on some things and wrong on others.

Truth is not divisible. It cannot True and False at the same time. Therefore if the Catholic Church is the one true church established by Jesus Christ as we proudly profess when we say the Apostle’s Creed – if the Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ who is it’s head and who protects it from the Father of Lies - then it must always be in possession of the fullness of truth and always teach the truth. If Jesus is Lord, meaning really and truly divine, then everything else follows: the infallibility of the Church, the inerrancy of Scripture, the ex opere operato reality of the sacraments, the papacy, the authority of the church to teach the truth, the doctrine of purgatory, Humane Vitae, the Sanctity of Marriage between one man and one woman, the evil of pornography, the evil of homosexual acts, the evil of abortion and euthanasia, the necessity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, the dogmas concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, "all the truth." Not just part of it.

Since Jesus is the Lord of History, all this truth has come in time, step by step, as the Holy Spirit of Truth has led the Church into the fullness of truth. So the Church established by Jesus cannot go "off the tracks" of the truth, not with the Holy Spirit as its guide, not ever – not for one second. It is one thing to reject the divinity of Jesus, a truth available only to those who have been given the faith by their Heavenly Father. It is another thing entirely to accept the divinity of Jesus but then at the same time to reject the authority of His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church and the Vicar of Christ on earth – the Holy Father – Our Pope. The person who does this needs to go back and reread the New Testament, and consider what it really means to say that Jesus is Lord, that the enemy is the Father of Lies and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.

Catholics believe it to mean that Jesus, at every moment throughout these last 2000 years, has always had what it takes to protect his Bride, from her beginning at Pentecost until her Lord returns in glory. He has said that He will be with us until the end of time and He has done so. As Catholics we are called to be defenders of the truth. This means opposing those who are advocates of the Father of Lies. As Catholics we have been given the immense privilege of belonging to Christ’s Mystical body, of having the one true faith and through it knowing the sure means of salvation and holiness.

But as today’s Gospel directs us, we were not given the fullness of truth to keep it to ourselves alone – each one of us has been given the great commission – we have been sent to spread the truth of our faith to all peoples. We are directed to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Coincidentally this Sunday is also World Communications day and so we are invited to reflect upon the media of social communications (films, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, CD’s and DVD’s) and how these influence our lives both the good and the bad. The church uses the Media to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ - an example of this is the Television Station EWTN. The Eternal Word Television Network which presents good solid Catholic teaching 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. It has an Audience of over 80 million people. It is available to us through both Starchoice and Bell XpressVu – wouldn’t this be a great gift for your Children or Grandchildren. It costs around 4 or 5 $ a month. Check the Bulletin for channel numbers.

My friends, Look up! There is your desired goal ascending to sit at the right hand of His Father. It is a goal which neither poverty, nor hardships, nor death itself can keep you. Follow the truth. The Holy Spirit will assist you. For the treasures that are laid up for you are worth any cost. Follow the truth for the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, nor has it even entered into the hearts of men what God has prepared for those who love Him. Christ has ascended to lay up a treasure for you. If you are a doubter, Christ’s ascension is a final proof of His divinity. If you are among the weak, Christ ascended to send the Holy Spirit to strengthen and confirm you. If you are a sinner, Christ is your advocate pleading for your forgiveness before his Father.

As we believe so shall we teach – let us therefore teach the truth – and the truth will set us free.