November 1, 2020
It was not until the mid 9th century, that European Catholics began to celebrate the feast of all the Saints. After almost a thousand years, there were too many good people to name and to remember. Simply, there were not enough days in the year. Soon after, there sprang up today’s commemoration. Why the feast landed in November was because there was more food available after the fall harvest in Rome than in May, its original date.
In the late 8th century, a chapel was dedicated in St. Peter’s Basilica to all the apostles, martyrs, confessors, and all the just and perfect who were at rest throughout the known world at the time. They must have had some person and name recognition at their time, but no one knows who they are today.
So here we are, today, and Pope Francis suggests that we give the feast a new meaning. Yes, there are all the good and strong followers of Jesus from the 8th and 9th century up to the present 21st, but Pope Francis encourages us to see today’s feast as “our celebration: not because we are good, but because the holiness of God has touched our life. The Saints are not perfect models, but people through whom God has passed.”
This is a wholly, different way to appreciate ourselves. I think that Pope Francis wants us to appreciate ourselves and to be good role models for each other.
It is also very important to know that even the saints of the past were not perfect human beings. They recognized their own personal faults and the people they lived with recognized their faults as well.
Have you ever heard a wife or a husband say publicly as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary that he or she was a saint to have lived with the other person?
Unfortunately, church art can’t truly describe the saint it tries to picture. Several years ago, Pope Francis wrote “The Saints are our brothers and sisters who have welcomed the light of God into their hearts and have passed it on to the world, each according to his or her own “hue.”” All we have to do to be a saint is to enable the gentle light of God to pass through!.
Years ago, when in my catechism for First Holy Communion and then when I began 3rd grade in Queen of All Saints School in Concord, catechism was taught by talking about the lives of the Saints, and looking at their imagined pictures or statues.
As I look back on it now, what we needed was to read the words of Jesus, to get to know him and to imitate.
The message received in my childhood was to imitate prayers and penitential practices of those who were canonized saints and their heroic penances– what we should have focused on was all the good that they started and asking others to join them. Many of those people founded religious orders and movements, hospitals and orphanages, schools to educate to help young people move forward with their lives.
The Scripture passage to focus our attention today is the first letter of John. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet, so we are.” That God loves us makes us and enables us to be a saint. “Beloved, we are God’s children now,” that is what makes us a saint. “What we shall be has not yet been revealed.” We have a whole life to grow into the shoes of a saint. “We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him.” That is the $64,000 question. Whom will we look like? More like God or more like our self? Or more like our self, wrapped in God’s light, love, and life, at the end of our life.
The Book of Revelation is a visionary, ecstatic description of heaven where I can’t imagine that millions of faithful Christians are praising God forever. If Catholics cannot stand a mass of over an hour and a half, I’m not sure that they will not endure praising God for eternity. Is that all we are going to stand around to do? There must be something more?
So let’s be realistic. The piety of a hundred years ago is not how today’s saints live. Then, there was an accent on personal devotions, sacramental confession of sins, sacrificial penances, a personal trying hard to be close to God by pleasing God.
I wonder if Jesus ever really wanted that. Since the Second Vatican council, we have developed a more wholesome sense of a community faith, the fostering of spiritual relationships, finding ourselves in the words of scripture and interactive liturgical celebrations.
All of us are saints looking for the presence of God in every facet of what is created and in every human being in all the cultures, skin tones and languages of the world. The greatest sin is to separate ourselves and go our own way. The greatest blessing is to recognize how poor we are and to let Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven fill us.
The Saints are the children of God, the Beatitudes tell us. From God we have come through our parents. From the Church and our parents, we have received the grace and knowledge to know who we are. The Beatitudes are the path for a happy life, Pope Francis writes.
Let me read to you Pope Francis’ description of a saint.
“True happiness is being with the Lord and living for love… The ingredients for a happy life are the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the simple, the humble who make room for, who are able to weep for us and for their own mistakes, who remain meek, fight for justice, are merciful to all, safeguard purity of heart, always work for peace and abide in Joy, do not hate and even when suffering, respond to evil with good.
This is how the saints are: like everyone, they breath air polluted by the evil there is in the world, but on the journey, they never lose sight of Jesus’ roadmap.
The goal of a Saint is not to be perfect. The goal of a saint is to never lose sight of Jesus’ roadmap.
It is not important that someone remember us, but it is important that we let God the Father and Jesus pass through us. If we let God touch our lives as Pope Francis suggested, we become a channel. Jesus is the first channel.
Imagine, each one of you, today being such a channel. That is the work of our becoming a saint. As St. John wrote, “we do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
What would it be like for you to be a channel through whom God passes? Think about that! Imagine that and then you will discover who is a Saint.