Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Solemnity of All Saints

It's coincidence, I guess, that the subject of this post is very similar to that of the one immediately prior to it. Or maybe not -- maybe it's Providence. Below is my homily for All Saints' Day:

When you hear the word “saint”, who comes to mind? Maybe someone who lived a long time ago, like Augustine or Athanasius. Maybe someone who founded a religious order, like Benedict or Francis. Maybe someone who lived a life of intense prayer, like Catherine or Teresa. Maybe someone who did amazing, even heroic things like Mother Theresa or John Paul II or Maximilian Kolbe. In short, when we hear the word “saint,” we think of all sorts of people – everyone, that is, but ourselves.

Now, to be sure, we are not saints – not as we are currently. We are not in heaven, we are not experiencing the glorious beatific vision, of beholding God face to face. But we are called to be saints, as our readings today tell us very clearly. The first reading from Revelation speaks of “a great multitude from every nation, race, people, and tongue”. So, if they were from all types of backgrounds, what was the common link between them? We hear “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress, and have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

If we think that’s intended to describe someone other than you and me, we’re mistaken. Yes, it means the martyrs and the bishops and the nuns, all those holy men and women. But we too hope to share in their company. All of us, by virtue of our baptism, have a share in the death of Christ – we have been washed in his blood. By that fact, so too are we called to share in his inheritance, to take, by the grace of God, our place in the Communion of Saints.

Today we celebrate all of our brothers and sisters who have attained that goal. We ask for their spiritual assistance and intercession, and we look to them as models and inspirations to holiness. But we should also see in them a promise of what we ourselves can be, indeed are called to be, if we endure the time of trial and distress, if we cling to the grace we have in Christ. As St. Augustine said, “Why could we not be so holy?”

So, the next time you think of the saints in heaven, imagine yourself as one of them – and then live here on earth so that you can make it a reality.