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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was the Feast of the Ascension, and many of us will be keeping it this Sunday. In the reading containing the account of Jesus’ ascension to heaven (Acts 1), I am always struck by the disciples’ question: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Despite all their years of following him, listening, learning and witnessing, even in these final moments together the disciples are still looking for Jesus to establish an earthly empire. I wonder if he was frustrated!

Patiently, Christ reminds them, as he did before his death, that his ascension is the precondition for the sending of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit who will guide them into all truth, who will give them power and courage to bear witness to the ends of the earth.

Thinking about heavenly and earthly kingdoms has special resonance, as we are less than a week away from a provincial election. There is no political party or coalition of parties anywhere that can bring about an ideal earthly society, much less the kingdom of God. But as the saying goes, a vote is not a valentine declaring that any one party or leader is “the One.” Rather, it’s like choosing a move in chess or a route on public transport – making the choice that brings one closest to the place one wants to end up. And for us as Christians, our participation in the electoral process, like every other action, is an opportunity to bear public witness to the way of Jesus: love for our neighbours, good news for the poor, dignity for those whom society has pushed to the margins, and care for the earth which was created in and through Him.

As we slowly emerge from two years of pandemic, numbed by the stress of lockdowns and illness, of racial violence and protest, social polarization and runaway inflation, it can be tempting to retreat – either into a stance of self-preservation and self-interest or into a state of despair that anything we can do will make a difference. But neither of these are options for us as Christians. As much as every human social order is imperfect and incomplete, our choices in the voting booth can make a very real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbours, those whom Jesus urges us to love as we love ourselves, and also to the health of the lands, air and waters by which all our lives are sustained.

A resource outlining some of the justice issues in this campaign, with questions to ask of your local candidates, can be found on our diocesan website. I encourage you to look at this resource and consider these issues as you discern how best to cast your vote. Moreover, I encourage you to continue raising these issues with your local representatives, regardless of the outcome of the election.

Jesus calls us not to put our hopes in an earthly kingdom, nor simply to wait for the coming of the heavenly one. Rather, in his ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit, he guides and empowers us in all our actions to bear witness to him. We are all called and equipped not to bring about God’s kingdom in our own power, but to spend our lives on earth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, pointing to the liberating and life-giving love of God’s son Jesus Christ. Amen!

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto