"For all the Saints"
Scriptures for Solemnity: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110113.cfm
Recently Forbes Magazine, a prestigious American Business magazine, published an article on the “72 most powerful people on planet earth in 2013.” Ranked at #4, after the Presidents of Russia, the United States, and China was Pope Francis. This seems to me an odd mix of personalities with our Holy Father who clearly sees power as service rather than any power vested in political office or position. While the Pope may have one definition of power, Forbes had somewhat different criteria in choosing their candidates. The magazine explains power by four-dimensions:
1. Does the candidate have power over lots of people?
2. What are the assessed financial resources controlled by each person as compared to their peers?
3. Is the candidate “powerful in many spheres” rather than only one?
4. Does the candidate actively “use their power?”
While on a purely earthly plane we can see that Pope Francis met these criteria but for an entirely different purpose. This week we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. “So many intercessors” as the Collect of our Mass reminds us. These Intercessors have risen to the level of heroic Christians and stand among us as living witnesses for Jesus Christ. We have heard that these brothers and sisters, these members of our family should make us proud of who we are. In their lives we may well say that power as service was lived out in a multitude of unique ways over the centuries of Christianity.
The first reading of the Mass for All Saints from the Book of Revelation speaks of “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue . . .” Not just the canonized but all those in the heavenly presence of God who are among the “holy ones.”
Therefore, while we honor those formally canonized, we also recognize those made pure and clean now before God.
In the ways of concrete faith, living hope, and Christ-like charity God has provided us with the outstanding examples of holiness. Not to be better than us, unreachable and untouchable but to remind us that we are all called to the same – holiness of life which may be described as intimacy with God and a faith that is in the flesh lived out.
With such a crowd of heroes and heroines, it is difficult to know where to start. But, it strikes me that no matter who we may refer to among those who bear the title “Saint,” they all share one theme: Prayer as the pursuit of a relationship with Jesus Christ. In the midst of all their human diversity, which reminds us that holiness is possible for anyone, they all pursued a deep and personal love for Jesus Christ through prayer – which is the whole purpose of prayer.
Let’s face it, the spiritual life means work. I’m a master at starting over again and again. I hope God gives an “E” for effort.
It isn’t magic and it just doesn’t happen. While God can do whatever he pleases, normally grace builds upon nature as the saying goes. If our nature is turned toward God, it’s like facing the sun. Sooner or later we’ll get burned but not to worry because this is a good burn. Think Holy Spirit.
If our lives, our nature and our choices face darkness, well the obvious can happen. If we are truly praying, it seems to me, we are not just saying words. We don’t just pile up rosaries, novenas, devotions, Masses or whatever assuming that more is better. We can do many holy things without ever becoming holy if we never see prayer as a holy relationship with the Lord Jesus.
The saints, it seems to me, teach us that prayer is a relationship. If we want to love Jesus Christ, then we must pursue him with our efforts, trust him in all things, and pray for the grace of holiness every day. That, along with a good dose of “Mea Culpa” puts things in perspective.
The Saints remind us that we pray not to change God but to be changed by God. The problem is, sometimes, that I don’t want to change. I would rather hold on to my fixed and comfortable patterns of behavior, my attitudes, my bad habits, my laziness – well I think we all get the point. So prayer can be a way of doing a little spiritual surgery. In the end it is what God does in us and our response is to cooperate with his grace.
This beautiful Feast is for all of the Church and coupled with the Feast of the Faithful Departed, and the month of the Holy Souls, we rejoice that we are not alone on this journey of life.
Our cheerleaders are urging us on. Can you hear their cry?