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Mass in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
St. Teresa's Parish, Edmonton

Over the last few days we have seen on our television sets and computer screens images of great destruction in the Philippines. This gives rise within all of us to a deep sadness. To those who call the Philippines their homeland, and especially to any who have family in the devastated regions, the images bring great heartache and extreme worry, particularly if a damaged communication infrastructure does not allow contact. This mass tonight is an expression of the solidarity of this Archdiocese and the whole Church with each and every one of you here in this time of distress, and with the beloved people of your home country in their suffering.

The images have left us all in awe at the power of nature. News reports tell us over and over that we have not seen anywhere before now a storm as powerful as Typhoon Haiyan. Pictures that tell the tale of its destructive might have brought us here tonight to pray. But this is not the only image that compels us. In faith we gaze upon another image that we know has a power far beyond anything in nature, and that draws us together in a way that transforms sorrow and fear into peace and hope. And that is the image of Jesus crucified for us upon the cross.

In Jesus crucified, we see God who loves us so much as to have become one of us and actually assumed to himself the full reality of our suffering and pain. In Jesus crucified we see the God of infinite compassion, who draws near to his people in their need and unites himself to them in deepest solidarity. Long ago God told Moses that he heard the cry of his people in slavery and would respond in rescue. The image of Jesus on the cross assures us that God now hears our cries, and above all those of our suffering brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

At the same time we know this image of Jesus on the cross implies another: that of Jesus risen from the dead. The Jesus who was crucified is our risen Lord! In Jesus risen from the dead, we witness the power of God, a power greater than any earthly force; a power that seeks not to destroy but to transform; a power that leaves in its wake not death and despair but life and new hope. In Jesus risen we see God whose love overcomes and transforms even death, and fashions life from it. In moments of tragedy we naturally cling to one another. The image of Jesus crucified and risen invites us at the same time to cling to him and from him to draw real strength and hope.

Jesus Christ crucified is also a call to action. He came to be one with us in our sufferings and carry them with us. The night before he gave his life he said to St. Peter, "I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." We, then, are sent by God to those in need. To save his beloved people, God sent Moses. To bring help and hope to the people of the Philippines, the Lord sends us. We are called by the Lord to manifest and make concrete our solidarity with our brothers and sisters, just as he has done with us. We do so through our support of the many organizations established to bring assistance to those is need. The money collected here this evening will go to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which in turn channels it to a Catholic partner agency on the ground in the effected areas of the country. Other opportunities will surely present themselves and we need to remain open to whatever we can do to be of help.

Our deepest solidarity and support is expressed through prayer. Indeed, the Scripture readings tonight summon us to prayer. The letter to the Hebrews assures us that, since Jesus became one of us and therefore knows from the inside our every need, we should approach him with boldness to receive his grace and mercy. Jesus himself, in the Gospel passage, also calls us to be bold and to go through him to our heavenly Father and ask, seek, knock. Our Father, who hears and knows our every need, loves us beyond all imagining and will surely reply with all that we require.

And so we pray daily for the people of the Philippines. No prayer is more powerful and effective than that of the Eucharist. Here the Lord Jesus is present in his very act of giving himself to the Father for the salvation of the world. We unite our offering to his, and ask that the power of his death and resurrection, the power of divine love and mercy, be poured out in abundance upon those who are suffering and carry to heaven those who have so tragically been taken from us.

So, let us do as the Lord asks. Let us take a moment now to lift up our hearts to the Lord. In the silence of our hearts let us turn to him with boldness and love. Let us present to him our family members, our compatriots, all who are suffering and ask the God of love and salvation to pour out upon them his gifts of healing, renewal and peace.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
November 13, 2013
St. Theresa's Parish, Edmonton