News & Events
Sing of the steadfast love of the Lord
March for Life
St. Andrew's Cathedral
May 11, 2017
"Christian hope is learned when we embrace our own suffering, and it is practiced when we can embrace the suffering of others—then we learn hope at its deepest level."
"What is it then, for us, to change this society? It is to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord. It is to encounter people with hope. To come alongside in their suffering, and to be close."
~ Bishop Gary Gordon
I want to leave you with a little word, taking off from the response to the Psalm: Forever I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord. This is why we are here, from all over Vancouver Island, and I even see a few people from the Fraser Valley, and from Kelowna, and from other places. Welcome.
Forever I will sing of your steadfast love. This is at the heart of our journey of life, and our walk today from City Hall to the BC Legislature is but a piece of this journey. This journey of life is not for us, but it is for everyone else. We are invited on this journey of life to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, to stay focused on the steadfast love of the Lord, even when we look at our contemporary Canadian society. We’ve got many distressing and problematic situations within our contemporary Canadian society. More than 40 years of unbridled killing of the unborn, and now we’ve turned to that next page, that the vulnerable and frail elderly and infirm will be euthanized.
So, we wonder, How do we continue on? What is the invitation for those who want to continue to be able to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord? Here I want to draw upon Pope Emeritus Benedict, and our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, for a way, for a program, for a possibility of how to be able to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord.
Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote his amazing Encyclical Spe Salvi, on Christian hope. And in this he speaks of some schools of hope. You go to school to learn something, to gain some knowledge, some understanding. One of the schools of hope that Pope Emeritus Benedict speaks about is the school of suffering. Imagine! The school of suffering. Who’s going to enroll in that school? Well, you don’t have to enroll. It’s coming your way, if it hasn’t come your way already. It’s part and parcel of our human experience.
So Pope Benedict says that Christian hope is learned when we embrace our own suffering, and it is practiced when we can embrace the suffering of others—then we learn hope at its deepest level. So we are invited, in this particular time in Canadian history, to embrace the suffering of others. To truly be with.
This is where I will move over to our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, who in his first Apostolic Exhortation, speaks about the art of accompaniment. To accompany those in need. To accompany the suffering. All the bishops of Western Canada, myself included, were in Rome two months ago with Pope Francis. We had a two-and-a-half hour sit down with him, and it was beautiful. At the end of [this discussion about] the difficult questions we were speaking about—among them the fact of legislation taking place in our country about euthanasia and assisted suicide, troubling times we all agree—at the end of a very important conversation with the bishops and our Holy Father, his end line would always be: Stay close to the people. Stay close.
Stay close. He would always end with that, and then he would say to us bishops, as I will say to each of us here, Be people of deep prayer. This is the work. The way forward. The modus operandi of the life movements within Canada, and certainly within the Diocese of Victoria, and elsewhere in British Columbia.
To sing of the steadfast love of the Lord. To not abandon anyone. It means to come alongside, and in this particular time, the level of pain and isolation and wounded-ness within our contemporary human family is indeed great. People are suffering. They are suffering so intensely that they see death as the option. This is a profound suffering, born out of great isolation, great hurt, and great pain.
What is it then, for us, to change this society? It is to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord. It is to encounter people with hope. To come alongside in their suffering, and to be close.
Will everyone change their mind just because they’ve got a joyful, Christian, hopeful friend? No. But we’re not responsible for the response. What we are responsible for is to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord. We are responsible to come alongside and to be close. We are responsible, to whatever degree we are able, to make sure no one is abandoned. It’s a tall order, I know. I’m thinking, How can I even be able to be close to the 90,000 Catholics on Vancouver Island, when only 8,000 show up at Church on Sunday? What am I going to do?
But I don’t have to think about doing it alone. I’ve got good priests, and I’ve got all of you, and together we can sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, and simply remain hopeful, and bear the suffering of others as the great school of hope that Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke of.
And we can hear our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and figure out ways to accompany, and to be close to, and to journey with, knowing that for many in our contemporary society, the cry that they have is really foundational. It’s so simple. Do you love me? Do you care, and, Will you stay with me?
This is the answer to the particular Canadian society we live in, and all of us, together, can make a huge difference so that eventually—and here’s where I am a dreamer, and I dream big—the whole of our particular Canadian contemporary society, the whole thing, will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord. Amen? Amen!
Photo credit: Connie Dunwoody