November 1, 2015

November 1, 2015


According to a various internet sources, popular Halloween costumes this year include Star Wars characters, minions, Donald Trump, Minnie Mouse, Wonder Woman and other superheroes, pirates, Pizza Rat, and (the most popular, actually) comic book villain Harley Quinn.  I always joke that I always end up dressing up as the same thing every year.  But of course the whole idea of the Halloween costume is to dress up as someone or something that in real life we are not, pretending to be someone we are not, the greatest costumes being those that disguise who we really are.  Now, it’s not that I’m judging the whole concept of Halloween costumes, but it’s a chance to consider what I think we all know to be the case: that sometimes in real life people can also put on a kind of “costume” or “mask,” pretending to be something they are not/disguising who they really are.


Today we celebrate the great solemnity of All Saints—the communion of all the holy men and women of every time and place.  All of us here, too, are a part of the Communion of Saints as members of the Church.  And in our celebration of All Saints, we celebrate the call that all of us— that each of us—has to holiness.  Maybe this call is (or will be) answered in some grand and heroic way.  But more likely than not, each of us is called to live out our call to holiness through regular, day-to-day faith, hope, and love.  It is this that becomes our foundation for living as children of God, and it is this that prepares us to join the company of saints in heaven. 


We are God’s children now.  Each of us is a saint in the making.  This is who we really are.  To become a saint is the highest goal in the Christian life.  And really, it is the only goal.  Canonized or not, that’s what it means to live with God forever in heaven—to be like Him, to see Him as He is, as St. John writes.  That journey/that process must occupy our lives now, or else we’re not being who we are. 


Of course, it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) take us long to realize that we don’t always live out our call to holiness to the best of our abilities; we don’t always live the reality that we are, in fact, children of God/saints in the making.  But in our human weakness, I think we too often fall into the trap, then, of thinking that being a saint is out of reach for us, and so we end up setting the bar too low.  If sainthood is the ultimate goal of the Christian life (and it is), then settling for anything else really is setting the bar too low. 


Now, it is true that we can’t do it on our own.  It happens through our openness to God’s grace, to letting God lead us on the way of holiness, to allowing God to continue to form us into who we really are.  “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”  We mustn’t sell God short.  We mustn’t sell ourselves short. 


In his book Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission, John Wood says, “All great things are accomplished little by little. This mission of sainthood is accomplished one habit at a time. It takes perseverance, forgiveness, and courage to keep moving forward on the journey from where we are today, point A, to becoming the saint we were created to be, point B. The important thing is not to land on point B tomorrow, but to be closer to point B tomorrow than you already are today (29).”


We are blessed to have the example of all the holy women and men throughout the ages.  And, we have all known saints, people who gave humble witness to Christian faith, hope, and charity.  Perhaps it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a priest or a religious sister.  Perhaps we can’t even identify specifically those who have shown us the face of God and have helped us on our own way of holiness.  Still, it is all of these people in the Communion of Saints that we remember and honor today as well, and ask for their prayers for us.  


Yet, as John Wood writes, “A common misperception is that the saints were God’s favored few…Perhaps we’ve conjured up the perception of the saints living perfect lives because we want to think they had gifts we simply don’t have. Again, we hide from their journey to sainthood because if we face the fact that ordinary people before us lived extraordinary lives, then we must take responsibility for our power to do the same (124)…We must stop hiding behind our fear and start taking responsibility for the power to become saints (167).”


In the Book of Revelation we see that “great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue” worshipping with the angels “before the throne and before the Lamb.”  Here at the Mass, we come the closest to that eternal, heavenly worship that is possible this side of heaven.  We join the angels and the saints in their song of praise.  We participate in the living memorial of the Lamb who was slain, that Eucharist that unites us sacramentally with the One who lovingly calls us to be united with Him fully and perfectly and forever.