November 4, 2018
Paulist Fr. Rich Andre preached this homily for the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1, 2018, at Saint Austin Parish in Austin, TX. The homily is based on the day’s readings: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; 1 John 3:1-3; and Matthew 5:1-12a.
This is my favorite day of the church year! Why? Well, to start, we have some awesome Scripture readings and songs – “For All the Saints” is my absolute favorite hymn! But more importantly and centrally, we celebrate the saints.
Well, what is a saint? A lot of us think of a person who is incredibly mellow and perhaps a bit out of touch with the “real world.” Dorothy Day probably had that image in mind when she famously said, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” Saints come in all shapes and sizes, from all centuries, all parts of the world, from different cultures and races and lifestyles.
Today, we celebrate all the saints, not just the ones we know who have the title “Saint” with a capital ‘S’ placed in front of their names. There are countless saints with a lowercase ‘s.’ All of us who die in friendship with God will eventually be saints.
How do we become saints? Well, the readings we’ll hear today give us some pretty solid ideas. But a first step to sainthood is to give thanksgiving for the mercy that we have received from God.
When people join RCIA, intending to become Catholic as adults, they usually come to the discussion on saints with some skepticism. But within a few minutes, most of them are completely on board… once they come to realize the phrase “the communion of saints” covers a LOT of ground. We are all part of the communion of saints. It’s all the people of all times and places who have lived their lives as disciples. Those who have gone before us, and those who will come after us. When we go to Mass, we are especially connected to that awesome fellowship!
How do we know of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Through the people in the intervening centuries who have proclaimed and lived Christ’s message. All these people – including our relatives – are saints. Canonized saints are people who inspired so many other people to live lives of Christian disicpleship, that the Church felt compelled to hold them up as role models.
When speaking about the saints, the prepositions aren’t really that important. We should remember that our prayers unite us with them, rather than obsessing about whether we are praying to them, with them, or for them.
It’s often enriching to ask other Catholics about their favorite saints, patron saints, and confirmation names. When people explain their connection with a saint, you learn more about the people talking, more about the saints they like, and more about how we are children of God. As Fr. Vinny McKiernan, CSP says: “Saints are friends of God and friends of people.”
And now, let’s apply this to our day and age, with some of the great hymns, prayers, and readings we have today.
As I’ve said, I love that hymn, “For All the Saints.” It’s a great tune, with great harmonies by Ralph Vaughn Williams, of course, but what I especially love is the text of some of the verses by William Walsham How. It really captures so much of what we mean by “the communion of saints” and so much of what our Scriptures proclaim today.
The Beatitudes are so beautiful, that we sometimes forget how challenging they are. In a world full of conflict and revenge, it’s hard to be a peacemaker. In a world that values riches, power, and independence, it’s a challenge to live a life poor in spirit. In the face of ridicule and persecution, it’s difficult to stay true to the faith. We feebly struggle to believe in a God whom we cannot see. But the saints shine in glory: through their examples, they have made God come alive before our very eyes. They have shown how the world can be transformed by living in the light of Christ. They endeavored to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, and so must we!
We are God’s children now, says John, but what we shall be has not yet been revealed. But we know this: we shall stream into heaven on the last day and see the face of God. Today’s preface calls today “the festival of [God’s] city.” And in seeing God, we will finally truly understand who God is, as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. And in seeing and understanding God, we shall be one with God.