FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS, November 1, 2020:
French novelists Leon Bloy famously said, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is to not become a saint.”
We heard a question from the Book of Revelation today that echoes out to us, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” The great answer to this question is that they – those in white robes – are us. Today we celebrate our annual solemnity of All Saints Day. This day calls to mind for us many saints – those represented in stained glass or statuary; those we have deep and special devotion to; but also the great and vast communion of saints – the many, many, many more women and men who have reached the glory of Heaven, but whose names we may never know.
Properly understood, this feast is not a celebration of the few-and-far-between who attained holy perfection in life. It is a celebration of our common call to follow Jesus, to be holy, to live the life of the saints. Too often, though, we functionally think of sainthood as an honor bestowed on a select few, instead of the very hope and expectation that God has for each and every one of us. Pope Francis said, “To be a saint is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.”
I’m sure if I were to ask who here would like to go to Heaven, every hand in this church would be raised. By saying that we want to go to Heaven, we are, in fact, proclaiming our desire to be saints. After all, that is all that a saint is – someone who lived a life worthy of heaven. Becoming saints is the goal of everyone who has been baptized.
The problem when we think that sainthood is out of our reach is because we usually focus on how much the saints are like God. But today’s feast invites us to remember the other side of that equation and remember how much the saints are also like us. Saints did not enter into the world as perfect and holy. They did not receive an extra dose of God’s grace to become holy women and men. They did not receive something that we have not. They are just like us. They were born into families. They had joys and struggles. They had sins they struggled with and spiritual victories they rejoiced in. But, in the end, they lived lives that were more and more journeys toward the Lord. They made God the priority and followed His will; His path; His call. And, so can we.
How do we become saints? Jesus just told us how in the Gospel – live the Beatitudes. Blessed, or saintly, are we when we are poor in spirit, when we mourn, when we are meek, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when we are merciful, and clean of heart, when we are peacemakers, or persecuted for the sake of righteousness. These are God’s best instructions for living as followers of Jesus Christ, as saints-in-training.
Pope Francis in a homily for All Saints gave a list of modern Beatitudes. He said, “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart. Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness. Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him. Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others. Surely they will receive from him their merited reward.”
We also become saints when we embrace the life of the sacraments; the life of the church that Jesus came to give us. Jesus didn’t institute the church and its sacraments to create an organization. He gave them to us to create saints! Baptism welcomed us into this saintly family. Confirmation strengthened us to be guided by the Holy Spirit towards holiness. The Eucharist transforms us just as it transforms the bread and wine so that we may become what we receive; that we may become more like Christ every time we participate. And he gave us Reconciliation so that His grace can be renewed and restored in us whenever we fall off the path of holiness because of our sin. We have everything we need to become a saint right here in the Church.
Pope Francis said, “Saints are not superheroes who are born perfect. But rather, they are ordinary people who follow God will all their heart.”
Today, as we remember all the saints – named and unnamed – let us live the Beatitudes; let us live lives worthy of our own holiness; our own saintliness. It is what we have been called to. Let us have the courage to desire to be the saints that God has called each of us to be.
The only real sadness in life, is to not become saint.
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.