[All Saints Day, Year B, November 1, 2015 / Rev 7:2-4, 9-14 / Ps 24: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 / 1 Jn 3:1-3 / Matt 5, 1-12a]
A young boy was on a tour of a cathedral and the guide pointed out the beautiful stained glass windows showing the images of saints. It was a sunny day and they were brightly illuminated by the sun’s rays. “Who are the saints?” asked the guide. “The ones who let the light pass through them,” replied the young boy. A very good theological response! Yes, it is those who have let God’s life, light and love shine through them, through their humanity, even through their weaknesses. Notice that we are asking who are the saints not simply who were the saints. We ask for their help because they are alive, alive and kicking in Christ and interceding for us.
In the first reading today, John sees a vision. A huge crowd “from every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Revelations 7:2-4, 9-14). Who are these people? He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” In the great heavenly crowd will be St Thérèse of Lisieux, the great preacher St John Chrysostom, the courageous St Francis Xavier. A huge crowd can inspire us. You see the saints are not simply for admiring but for imitating!
Every Christian is called to holiness. Do you believe that? Or more importantly do we try to live it? In case of doubt that all are called to holiness one need only look at the title of the 5th chapter of the Church’s document Lumen Gentium. The chapter is entitled “The universal call to holiness.”
A great obstacle to discovering the joy of pursuing holiness is a misunderstanding of what it means to be holy. Holy is not “goody goody” or to have a halo. What is holiness? To look like an angel? Actually we are all saints in the making. To become holy is a process. That it is a process is confirmed in the second reading –“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn 3:1-3). If we are alive today it means we can still take little steps, we still have time. Cardinal Newman wrote that the man who becomes perfect is the man who has changed often! This gives us hope. Our sanctification is a process, a slow one – well, sometimes we make it a bit slower than what it should be!
Human limitations and imperfections are not necessarily a barrier to holiness. Many saints such as St Alphonsus Liguori (the founder of the Redemptorists) would conclude his letters writing, “from a great sinner.” How can we then as sinners with weaknesses still aspire to the perfection of charity, to grow in holiness each day? Is it right for us to conclude that we cannot respond to the challenge to be holy because “we are weak and only human?” Imagine you are playing soccer and losing the game. On the touchline ready to come on are Pele, Ronaldo and Kaka. They are just waiting that you ask them for help. You are struggling with the free kicks and Ronaldo is jumping up and down on the touch line! You don’t ask them for help and you lose the game. When they ask you why you didn’t invite the lads on to the pitch to help you and you respond because you are not a very good soccer player! How crazy! All the more reason to bring on the boys. But in our Christian life we have so many saints just itching to intercede for us. If we feel weak and incapable all the more reason to call in the saints! To be more simple in our everyday life we can call on St Thérèse of Lisieux. To strengthen us in struggles we can ask St Paul for advice and read his letters to get some good tips on how to grow in love and holiness. As St. Pope John Paul II often said “Don’t be afraid to be holy!”
Jesus gives us the blueprint for holiness in the Sermon on the Mount. The first beatitude he gives is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” (See Matthew 5:1-12a). It is OK to feel that you do not know everything, that the path ahead is not entirely clear, that you don’t feel totally capable in that situation – blessed are the poor in Spirit. The poverty of Spirit keeps us striving ever onward – we need to remember that we are unfinished masterpieces, work in progress. That poverty of Spirit will keep us moving. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus on whom our faith depends from beginning to end so that we too can reach our heavenly goal. Amen