Homily for the Celebration of the Eucharist
May 7, 2009
My Brother Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Today we gather for Eucharist; today we gather to march. We do both in order to give common and united witness to the beauty and dignity of human life. We gather here for Eucharist to encounter and be nourished by the very author of life Himself. We march in order to offer our society a vision of life and a reason for hope.
We act today as messengers; messengers of life. A messenger, we know, is one who carries a message from one person to another. The message we bring is from Jesus Himself. We carry it to the men and women of our day by the words and actions we take to the streets of this city.
In the Gospel Jesus says that messengers are not greater than the one who sends them. This means that no messenger can justifiably substitute his own message for that of the sender. Of the Christian messenger this is especially true. We carry the message of our Lord, and that message is clear and unmistakable. It is, as we heard St. Paul say in the passage from Acts, the culmination of all that God had said and done among his chosen people through history. It is given wondrous expression in the Incarnation and in the paschal mystery of our Lord. This message is that every man, woman and child, from the first moment of existence until their natural end, is willed and loved by God. God fashioned us in His image and likeness, and loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die and rise that we might have life, and have it to the full (cf. John 3:16; 10:10). The love of God for every human person, and His saving purpose for humanity, endows each human life with an infinite worth and inalienable dignity. Therefore, human life deserves to be honoured and protected at every stage of existence.
We know only too well that this message is not always gladly received by those who hear it. For this reason we need to be more than just messengers. We need also to be witnesses. Witnesses testify personally to the truth of a message by the example of their lives. A messenger does not actually need to be invested personally in the message. Couriers bring messages daily without even knowing the content, let alone being committed to it. Christian witnesses are more. Christian witnesses are those who have not only heard the message of Christ but also have been so transformed by the Gospel of life that they cannot keep it to themselves. Convinced of the beauty of the Gospel and the meaning and hope it gives, they desire to radiate its truth before others with the entirety of their lives. God calls us to be those witnesses to the beauty and dignity of life in our day.
We shall witness to the message of the Gospel in our streets today. We are glad to share with our fellow citizens in this city and in our province that each and every human life is precious and worthy of love and protection. At the same time, the issues we raise are of such unparalleled importance that our witness must extend beyond local avenues and borders.
Before all else we must work to ensure that the message of life takes deep root in the family. The family is the natural environment for the procreation and nurture of life. Here man and woman experience the profound and wondrous joy of sharing self-giving love that enables them to participate in God's creative work. In the home children must receive love and thus come to know how beautiful it is that they are alive. In the family children must learn how to coexist with others and thus realize the inherent beauty and worth of those around them.
Beyond the family, the message of life must be carried to our schools and universities, and to the medical and scientific communities. It must be conveyed in the many and varied forms of modern communications media. Wherever there is opportunity to announce the Gospel of life we must not fail to do so.
In particular, of course, our witness must reach the halls of Parliament and find its way to the offices of our elected officials. To those that we have elected to make just laws that will protect all citizens, we must state clearly that the absence of any law to protect the unborn child is unacceptable and must be rectified. We must also tell them that even contemplating the introduction of a law that will allow euthanasia and assisted suicide is an intolerable offense to the weak and vulnerable, whose inherent dignity and right to a full life is in no way lessened by suffering.
We pray that our message of life will reach the judiciary of this country. Canadians rely on the courts to uphold their basic human rights. The foundation of these rights is the right to life. Since this fundamental right is inherent in human nature, the role of the State is not to grant this right selectively but to recognize and protect it as obtaining for all, at every moment of the human lifespan.
As we carry our message to society, many actively seek to marginalize it. We must not yield to this. At stake are the lives of unborn children and many other vulnerable persons who are unable to speak for themselves. We readily speak for them, not only for their sake but also for that of the common good. In the Gospel today, Jesus makes allusion to Judas, the one who would be betray him. We ought never to betray our own Christian identity by failing to speak out against any injustice perpetrated against a fellow human being. There is no greater injustice in our country today than that being carried out against the unborn child in the womb. Another injustice is the destructive manipulation of the human embryo in stem cell research and reproductive technologies. Yet another is lurking just around the corner in the possible legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. We must speak. We must witness.
In this season of Easter, we listen each day to passages from the Acts of the Apostles. This book recounts the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles as they set forth into the known world to announce Jesus Christ. We hear that the Holy Spirit led them, prepared their way, and inspired them with clarity of understanding and boldness of speech. We also learn that the Holy Spirit worked within the hearts of many who heard the message and enabled them to receive it in their lives. This does not mean that it was easy for the apostles. On the contrary they met with great difficulty. However, so convinced were they of the truth of the Gospel that they remained faithful to their mission and gave witness with the whole of their lives.
Today a new evangelization is necessary; a new proclamation of the Gospel of life is required. As we strive to respond to this need, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will prepare our way, show us where we must be present in witness, and grant us the courage necessary to remain faithful, even when we encounter indifference or hostility. We pray as well for our brothers and sisters who have not yet accepted the message of life. May the Holy Spirit so transform their hearts with the beauty and truth of the Gospel that we shall see established in our country a true culture of life.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton