WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
Archbishop Richard Smith delivers his homily at the May 1 Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica.
EDMONTON – Nothing More Beautiful should be "a launching pad" for Catholics knowing Jesus and sharing their faith with their friends, says Archbishop Richard Smith.
"When we encounter Jesus personally, we don't stay the same; we can't," the archbishop said in a May 2 interview. "We want to share him with others."
"From the beginning of Nothing More Beautiful, I have said this is a launching pad. This is not something we do for a five-year period and go home."
Nothing More Beautiful – a five-year program of faith education and worship aimed at strengthening the New Evangelization in the Edmonton Archdiocese – concluded May 1.
When he announced the program in 2008, Smith said he hoped it would be followed by the local Church building on its deepened faith by discerning how it might make greater contributions in areas such as family life, the environment, and the poor and homeless.
In the interview, he said that when people think of evangelization as outreach to people in various categories, they may feel it is beyond their ability.
Evangelization is mostly about sharing faith with those one meets in daily life - at home, in the workplace, on the street.
"Then we realize that evangelization is not only necessary for everybody to undertake, but it's also possible."
Evangelization can take the form of "the simple witness to the joy to the life that's ours because of our communion with Christ," he said.
We need to be particularly attentive to the needs of the people we meet, he said.
Pope John Paul II, the archbishop noted, said, "Evangelization passes through charity. There's no more effective witness to the Gospel than love."
Love, Smith said, needs to be understood as caritas – "loving as Christ loved us, willing to place others before ourselves, willing to make sacrifices of our own desires, wants, even needs in order to be at the service of others. "That is the most effective way to evangelize."
The question that arises for the local Church and for local Catholics is how to maintain and deepen our communion with Christ.
That communion is a call to attentive listening to the Word of God, a call to help people grow in their knowledge of Scripture, he said.
"How do we help people in our busy, fractious society to scratch out time for prayer so that they are guided by the Word of God and are asking the Lord to be the one who shapes their day?"
Smith recalled that in his September 2011 letter on The Pastoral Priorities of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, he called for outreach to those who no longer participate in the life of the Church.
While different programs for such outreach are being examined, "probably the most effective way to welcome people home" was shown by the Day of Reconciliation held March 6, he said.
Thousands of people received the sacrament of Confession across the archdiocese that day, many of whom had been away from the Church for some time.
"The way home – if you have been away from the Church – is through Reconciliation," he said. There, one receives forgiveness from the Lord.
The Church needs to ensure that its parishes are welcoming for people who want to learn more about the faith, study the Bible, prepare themselves or their children for the sacraments or just have a long talk with the pastor, he said.
Another pastoral priority is family life, the archbishop continued. "Families today struggle in so many ways."
Agencies such as Catholic Social Services deal with problems such as family breakdown, domestic violence and addictions, and they need to continue doing that, he said.
However, the Church also needs to deal with the causes of those problems, Smith said. The anguish of family problems has many different causes, but there is only one answer. "That is Jesus."
"How do we bring deep healing to families that comes from Christ?"
The archbishop said the Church also needs to help people be more aware of the need to turn to the Virgin Mary. "Her prayer is so powerful and her love is so all-embracing."
Recent popes have called Mary "the star of the New Evangelization." That is a call for us to turn to her and rely on her prayers as she leads us closer to her son.