Monday, October 26, 2020

Always, In Every Place: A Reflection on the Solemnity of All Saints

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on the readings for Mass this Sunday, November 1, 2020, at From His Heart, our parish blog.

We celebrate a different saint nearly every day of the year. Some days, such as St. Patrick's on March 17, are more popular than others. (Anyone remember St. Isaac Jogues and St. Rene Goupil on October 19?)

With such a crowded liturgical calendar, is All Saints Day just a catch-all feast for leftover saints?

We might try to put a number to it: 800 or 1,700 or 10,000 "official" canonized saints. Or in this week's First Reading, St. John references 144,000 Israelites in heaven:

"I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel." 

(Revelation 7:4)

But it's St. John's next revelatory insight that best captures the spirit of All Saints Day: 

"...I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue…" 

(Revelation 7:5)

On November 1, we celebrate every saint, known and unknown, from every time and place in history. And we're not just celebrating that they've made it to heaven, but that all of us can

This week's Responsorial Psalm describes saints in the making: 

"Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face." 

Do I long to see God's face? Do I long to be in God's presence?

Our Second Reading from 1 John helps us further understand what it means to be a saint. To become a saint, we are—

Loved by God: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us…" (1 John 3:1)

Walking by faith: "...what we shall be has not yet been revealed…" (1 John 3:2)

Trying to imitate God: "...we shall be like him…" (1 John 3:2)

Living in hope: "...has this hope based on him…" (1 John 3:3)

Do I see myself as God's beloved? Do I try to imitate God's love for others, living in virtues of faith and hope?

Finally, in this week's Gospel reading, Jesus gives us a new standard for sainthood. Maybe, as we listen to the Beatitudes, we're surprised to hear that eternity with God isn't based on someone's place in church hierarchy, name recognition, or number of theology degrees.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." 

(Matthew 5:3)

The first condition for sainthood is to simply realize we're too spiritually poor to even reach heaven without God's mercy in the first place. The Penitential Rite, prayers we say at the beginning of each Mass, and examinations of conscience are regular reminders of our spiritual poverty: 

"I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do…"

"May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life." 

Jesus lists seven more blessings for those who desire sainthood, an eternity with God in heaven:

"Blessed are they who mourn… the meek… they who hunger and thirst for righteousness… the merciful… the clean of heart… the peacemakers… they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness… you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me…" 

(Matthew 5:3-12) 

Who comes to mind when you hear the Beatitudes? A particular saint? A family member who's passed away? Perhaps a friend? How can I better live the Beatitudes?

"Always, in every place, one can become a saint, that is, one can open oneself up to this grace, which works inside us and leads us to holiness… Every state of life leads to holiness, always! In your home, on the street, at work, at church, in that moment and in your state of life, the path to sainthood has been opened." 

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