HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS 2017
Readings: Rev. 7:2-4, 9-14/ 1Jn. 3:1-3
Gospel: Mt. 5:1-12
In the 1979 season of “Saturday Night Live,” an actor by the name of Don Novello appeared on a recurring basis on the “Weekend Update” segment as the gossip columnist and rock critic for the Vatican Newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano, Fr. Guido Sarducci. During one of his appearances, he spoke about the Canonization of the first American-born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seaton. His satirical commentary was focused toward her ascension because of the number of miracles that had been attributed to her. He claimed that the final miracle was waived only because she was American. “It’s all politics,” he said. “We got some Italian people with forty, fifty, sixty miracles to their name. They can’t get in because we already have too many Italian saints, and this woman comes along with three lousy miracles.” And then he finishes his routine with the comment, “I understand that two of them were card tricks.”
Now while this was an amusing look at the process, one thing we should be asking ourselves is “what do we really know about the saints? What was it that made them saints? Were they always holy? Sometimes the only encounter we have with a saint is when we look at an image or a statue of them and only see a perspective of them that the artist want to portray. It’s not as if once the Vatican announces someone is to be made a saint, the person gets an artist to come in and take their portrait. The first requirement of being a saint is that they have to be dead. So, do we really know what it takes to be a saint on a first-hand basis?
A saint, by definition, is one who was so devoted to Jesus and His Gospel that their life was dedicated to share that devotion so that others can be devoted as well. While the Church calendar has feasts honoring many saints on certain days (and on some days we have multiple saints celebrated) there are other saints who we do not know their names, so we honor their memory today in this Feast of All Saints. While their names are known or unknown, the characteristics from saint to saint are the same.
Those characteristics are reflected in the readings today. To find a requirement for someone to be a saint, the words of Christ in the Gospel gives us a starting point. Jesus looked at the crowd and, seeing their hunger for holiness, began “Blessed are the poor in Sprit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs…” And on he went. He spoke about those who mourn, those who were meek, were merciful, who are pure of heart; these are the ones who are comforted, shown mercy and will be inheritors of the land. These are the ones who, just in their daily work, have proven themselves to be worthy of sainthood. This is the sentiment expressed in the Second Reading today from the First Letter of St. John. Even though the world cannot see that what we do makes us Children of God; God can see that in us. While we cannot see what lies ahead, when it is revealed, we will know that we have lived as God wanted us to live from the beginning of time.
Jesus also spoke about others who were eager to know the wonders of God, but they want to defend and protect the faith from those who would bring it harm. He spoke about the Peacemakers; the ones who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness and others who were persecuted for some or all of it, even to the point of being accused of things that were untrue. Christ assures them that their reward would be great, so there was nothing to fear.
Those who survived this distressed time are the ones who are portrayed in John’s vision from Revelation. They, along with the poor and meek had shown themselves before the throne of God and cried out “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb.” They, along with the angels worshipped God for they “are the ones who have survived the time of great distress.” They washed their dirty robes in the Blood of the Lamb and became dazzling white.
While the cause for sainthood can be long and confusing for those who are, well, normal, the path by which we can achieve sainthood is well within our reach. The path can be arduous and can seem to be against our better judgement or what we have been taught, yet as John wrote “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Yet while we look at these people with the highest regard, we still have to remember that they were sinners just like us during their lives on earth. It is only through their virtues that their vices were diminished. While we ask them to intercede on our behalf, they still remember what it was like to be human, so their pleas have an extra-special emphasis. I can even imagine sometimes that when they bring our causes to God, I would like to think that they would start by saying, “My friend has a problem and needs our help. What can we do?” We honor the saints today because they have kept the faith. God gave us His Son on earth so that we can be the saints that are yet to come. Today, let us begin to make that happen.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK