Archbishop Richard Smith’s Homily for Pro-Life Mass and March for Life Remarks

10 May 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan NewsMessages and Homilies

Mass for Life 2024 – St. Joseph’s Basilica, May 9, 2024


[Acts 18:1-8; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:17-23; John 16:16-20]


Once again, we gather as witnesses to the beauty and inviolability of every human life from its beginning to natural end. Our participation in this mass, and the march that follows later today, spring from our acceptance of God’s revelation that every human being is His creation, endowed by God with an inalienable dignity and eternal destiny. We begin with mass because of our absolute reliance upon the grace of God that our witness to life may bear fruit, and of our need to hear and be guided by his Holy Word.

As we ponder the scriptural texts for this liturgy, we can appreciate how well they capture the sentiments inhabiting our hearts as we, witnesses to life, look upon our contemporary world through a Christian lens. In the Gospel text, Jesus speaks of a mysterious mixture of grief and joy that he says will mark the disciple. The immediate context of his words is his imminent death. His departure will cause the disciples to weep; his resurrection will transform that pain into ineffable joy. Grief and joy. As it was true for the first disciples in their context, so, too, is it of us in ours. But in what sense?

The reasons for our grief and pain are self-evident. Much of society has chosen to eclipse from its consciousness the truth of God and the demands of His love. Our collective conscience has grown dormant, leaving personal willfulness as the only justification for action. In consequence, we have the total absence of legal protection for the unborn and the astoundingly rapid expansion of access to euthanasia. We see, too, that the family is increasingly marginalized in public opinion and political consideration, even as it suffers grievously from the drug culture, pornography, gender confusion, financial strain, infidelities, and domestic violence.

Our grief as we witness all this risks being compounded by frustration and discouragement at our lack of progress in the cause of life. Certainly, it is true that, while we seek to uphold the dignity of life and call for its legal protection, we are witnessing society forge ahead in erroneous directions. But. The Christian can never give in to despair. We remain confident in the power of God, the author and defender of life. God knows the solution to this and all of our problems. Our constant call is to turn our weakness and limit over to Him and, in prayer, ask Him to work in and through them to bring about His saving purpose for every human life. As we do, our grief becomes mysteriously intermingled with a deep and abiding joy, born of real hope.

Notice in the first reading from Acts how God made use of the setback experienced by Saint Paul. His preaching of the Gospel at Corinth was met not with success but rejection and insult. As a result, he went to the Gentiles, a significant turning point that brought the Gospel to the wider world. In other words, God took Paul’s apparent failure and turned it to the good in accordance with His saving purpose. Consider again what Paul himself teaches in his letter to the Ephesians. Inspired by his own experience, he speaks with marvelous conviction about “the immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power for us who believe”, the very same power by which the Father raised Jesus from the dead. One can sense the hope and joy coursing through every word of the Apostle, who wrote his letter while enduring persecutions.

God’s plans simply cannot be thwarted. This is why we must be filled with confidence, in spite of the difficulties and rejection that confront us whenever we give witness to the Gospel of life. God’s fidelity and power are the basis of our hope and joy even as we grieve at the world around us. When we turn all over to God and call upon His grace, God will turn everything to the good in accordance with His mysterious designs. It is essential to speak and act of course, such as we shall do later today in the march. At the same time, let us never forget that we do our most effective “work” on our knees, offering prayers to the Father through the Son, whose intercession is always heard.

So, today, in this celebration of the Eucharist, we do just that: we fall on our knees and pray to the Lord Jesus, really present among us, and ask him to present our prayers to the all-powerful Father. Let us ask God to inspire our efforts, to give strength to our weakness, and to turn everything, even apparent setbacks, to the good as we work for the protection of human life and give witness to its beauty and dignity. By God’s grace and power, may we be blessed to see the establishment of a genuine culture of life in our own day.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Joseph Basilica

May 9th, 2024

Speaking Notes for March for Life 2024

Speak, Celebrate, Serve

Today’s March for Life is our participation in a nation-wide effort towards the formation of a culture of life. It is a blessing and privilege to gather in witness to the beauty and dignity of every human life.

In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life), Saint John Paul II outlined the three basic actions upon which a culture of life can be fashioned: speak, celebrate and serve.

Speak: Whenever the opportunity presents itself, we must speak to our contemporaries of the beautiful gift of life, and witness to our conviction that basic human dignity demands that every life, from fertilization to natural death, should be welcomed with love and is deserving of protection. Since it is a wondrous gift, life should always be celebrated as good and beautiful, in a spirit of profound thanksgiving. Precisely because it is gift, life must be stewarded carefully and served so that it might develop to its full potential and reach its ultimate destiny in God.

Celebrate: There are many occasions in which we have the chance to celebrate life’s beauty. Many of us did so this morning with Mass at the Basilica. Now, by means of this march, we extend the celebration of life’s beauty to the community through word and witness. Our march is a very peaceful event, and a great occasion for us to witness to the beauty of all life. Having given thanks to God through the Mass for his gift of life, we walk quietly through the streets of Edmonton to share with our fellow citizens our conviction that every human being is “willed, loved and necessary” (Pope Benedict).

Serve: Many organizations in the Archdiocese of Edmonton and our community are dedicated to the service of life. We need think only of persons who surround a mother and her unborn child with love and encouragement as the child grows in the womb and is brought to birth, the many works of Catholic Social Services that uphold the dignity of human life through service to the poor and suffering, and the attentive care given by the staff of Covenant Health to the sick, especially the sensitive palliative care offered to the dying.

Our message and celebration seek to embrace everyone. We reach out to both mother and unborn child, to the elderly and their caregivers, to those who agree with us and those who do not. Sadly, the life issue for many has become a hopelessly polarized debate with little hope of resolution. Others, equally sadly, view it as somehow politically settled, particularly as it pertains to the question of abortion and, recently, assisted suicide and euthanasia. We share neither conviction. What are needed today are radically transformed human relationships, defined no longer by an extreme individualism and a false notion of freedom, but by a self-giving love that welcomes the other as gift. This is not a hope beyond the realm of possibility. It is a very real prospect when we recognize and accept the truth of our creation in the image and likeness of God, who in Christ has revealed himself as a perfect communion of persons, Father, Son and Spirit, and allow this “image and likeness” to be the guiding principle of our own human relationships with both God and one another.

Let us together speak, celebrate and serve, and thus make our own contribution toward a culture of life.