Feast of All Saints 2018
The ultimate object of veneration of all the saints is the glory of God.
1 John 3:1-3
One of the best sermons I ever heard on Saints was by a seminarian I was with very many years ago. Up to then most of the sermons I heard gave the impression that saints were perfect human beings who rarely offended God. This young man pointed out that most of the saints were very human like ourselves with their failures and sinfulness, some sinning more than others.
Think of the great St. Augustine who had an affair with a woman who gave birth to his child. Think of the first pope, St.Peter who betrayed Jesus three times in spite of swearing that he would even die for Jesus rather than betray him. However saints as they went through life committed themselves to doing God’s will more and more, especially by their loving, humble service of others, having repented as Sts. Augustine and Peter did.
Today the feast of All Saints we concentrate on those who became saints in ordinary and hidden ways, and who will never be canonised. Who would you have known that you regard or would have regarded as a saint?
For me I would say it was a woman in our neighbourhood who had a child who suffered from Parkinson’s disease who was paralysed almost from his birth. At first, it wasn’t too bad but as he got older the disease became worse and worse so that by his teens he was unable to do anything for himself. His speech was very slurred and it was very difficult to understand what he said. At times his mother wanted to go out for a break but he begged her not to do so but to stay with him. She became a prisoner of love in her own home, having to do almost everything for her son. Often she couldn’t even get to Mass but her dedication to her son was totally loving and self-sacrificing. She died some years before her son, worn out from her incredible attentive care to his every need. For me she was a saint. Today, let us pause to remember genuinely holy persons we have known.
The first reading today is a very vivid and figurative expression of the victory of the Risen Christ over sin and evil and his sharing of his glory with those who have stood firmly in the faith despite difficulties and trials of one kind or another. We hear of a huge number, impossible to count standing before the throne of God praising and worshipping him for all eternity. May we be with them after our own earthly pilgrimage as we try to be as faithful to God as possible, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
St. John tells us in the 2nd reading of our present reality and the future glory held out to us. Because of Christ we are already, right now, God’s children and can hope to become more like him joining those whose feast we celebrate today.
In the gospel Jesus gives us a new key to the interpretation of the 10 commandments and deepens our understanding of them. Indeed, they are not a bad programme for examining our consciences to see how we are doing as Christians. They show the qualities that are expected of Christians, of the disciples of Jesus.
The Beatitudes – or Be Attitudes as a friend of mine calls them – are a Manifesto for life. Our politicians will soon be publishing their Manifesto in the hope it will attract us to vote for them and help them achieve power. The Beatitudes, as Christ teaches them, are also a Manifesto but not one that will give us power but will make us servants – servants of God and, more importantly, servants of God’s people. And is it not such people – people noted for their service of others – in their homes, at work, school or in community action etc who attract us and impress us. They are the modern day saints. Who are they? I can think immediately of volunteers in the Simon community, Vincent DePaul volunteers, Neighbourhood Watch, local community organisations….
I just want to share one further thought, relating to the first Beatitude: Blessed or Happy are the Poor in Spirit. This underpins all the others. This can also be read as ‘blessed are they who know their need of God’. Without Jesus literally we can do nothing as he tells us in the gospel of John. But it’s hard to take it fully to heart. Two Sundays ago Jesus asked the rich man to sell all he had and come, follow Him. But he wasn’t able to. Why? Because he couldn’t trust enough in God to allow him to let go of all he had. We are too much into DIY (that is, Do It Yourself). We think we can do it all! That is why Jesus a number of times in the gospels tells us that we must become as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. A little child relies totally on his parents. It’s only later, as they grow up, they learn to do their own thing and, too often, they become DIYers! We all have! It’s time to return to simple confidence of childhood and trust in God.
And if we do that we too can become saints in our own time, serving God’s people around us as we try to make a better community wherever we are!