Oct 31, 2012

Our heavenly cheer leaders


"For all the Saints, who from their labors rest . . ."

The Word for All Saints: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110112.cfm

Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14
1 John 3: 1-3
Matthew 5: 1-12

Now that all the little, and often not so little, ghosts, goblins, skeletons, fairies, cowboys, Star Wars figures, and maybe even politicians have collected all their candy door to door, we turn our eyes to those who have done anything but hide behind a mask. Today the Church universal celebrates one of its most ancient Solemnities, The Feast of all God’s Holy Ones – All Saints Day. While Halloween has become a totally secular celebration here in the United States its origins are tied to the remembrance of God’s saints as the eve of all the hallowed (holy ones).

In the early days of Christianity it was customary to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death. The need for heroes and heroines is a part of our human psyche. We look for examples, models of virtue and perfection. We pay our professional athletes millions of dollars; we glamorize our movie stars; we search for virtue in our political leaders; when young we seek mentors who teach us how to be responsible adults. Sadly, we are disappointed when they don't meet our expectations - real or imagined. However, in marking our Communion of Saints we are given hope and inspiration.

Our brothers and sisters who have, “fought the fight” are recognized for their heroic Christian virtue. There was no doubt in the days when the motives of Christians were suspect that those who gave their lives rather than succumb to emperor worship or burning incense to false Roman gods were celebrated.

As the number of martyrs grew, more and more they were grouped together in local feasts of remembrance. Eventually, a day was chosen to honor all of them. But, as often happens, that particular day was moved around from a springtime celebration of only martyrs to eventually the addition of names, once organized persecution ceased, of those who did not die by the sword but nonetheless lived a life of inspiring Christian virtue. So we remember holy Pastors, Virgins and Religious, Martyrs, holy men and women of every time, culture, age and background over more than 20 centuries of Christian history.

November 1st became the Feast of All Saints around the middle of the 8th century. Although we have weekly memorials of these particular saints, today’s feast honors all of them. It has the power to impress and inspire.  It is the “Church Triumphant” in heaven, alive in the world outside of space and time, who actively intercede on our behalf with those who have died before us.

The Gospel for today contains the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as related in Matthew 5, the eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the humble, and the self-less. While I believe these men and women, "so many intercessors," as our opening prayer for Mass states, were given heroic graces by God to live extraordinary lives, let’s remember they too struggled with a flawed human nature.

They understand our failings, for they too recognized such in their own lives. In a kind of hyper-sensitivity to sin, they knew of their own unworthiness. (Would that we would feel the same at times.) They know we are challenged and called to live in a counter-cultural way. They know what it is like to be disappointed and find our faith tested when times get rough.

Yet, as Blessed Mother Teresa stated, and I paraphrase, “God does not seek perfection but faithfulness.” And St. Francis of Assisi who taught us to live a life that preaches without words and St. John Vianney, the famed Cure of Ars, who spoke tenderly about Christs' presence in the Eucharist, "He is there!" To Teresa of Lisieux who urged us to do simple things with great love for God. Let us look to these cheer leaders who have fought the fight and run the same race that we now do. The universal call to holiness for all the baptized is the essence of our Christian life. If I can be poor in spirit, meek, humble, merciful, and quick to forgive, as Jesus himself was, then I’m on the path to a holy life. Yet, God alone makes us a holy people. Have you asked for the grace to be holy?

If you've never done it or haven't in a while, today put aside other things and take some time to read the life or lives of the saints. Go on line and search Catholic websites for the saints of the Church. It's something I've loved since I was a kid. Their stories are true adventure and inspiration.

Together we pray:

Almighty ever-living God,
by whose gift we venerate in one celebration
the merits of all the Saints,
bestow on us, we pray,
through the prayers of so many intercessors
an abundance of the reconciliation with you
for which we earnestly long.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.