Text of Fr. Jim’s homily from All Saints:
Do you remember… When each and every time you walked into the church you blessed yourself with holy water and helped your little children to do so?
Do you remember… Greeting one another before Mass in the gathering space, seeing one another smiles, shaking hands or hugging each other?
Do you remember… Sitting close to one another, welcoming each other in the pew as you sat down with people in front of you and behind you?
Do you remember… Singing out loud in glorious praise of God?
Do you remember… Processing up close to and with one another to receive the host, the Body and precious Blood of Jesus Christ?
Do you remember… When leaving the church you did not go through the side doors, but past this baptismal font, blessing yourself with its flowing water and entering into a new week of discipleship over coffee and donuts?
It saddens and hurts my heart that I am beginning to forget /and that many folks, for good reason, are not ready to come back to Mass in the church. It looks as if we are in this for the long haul.
That is why we need this feast day of All Saints. We need to be reminded of our baptismal call – the call to holiness, to a life of discipleship of following Jesus, to a life of sanctity, to become saints.
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”
It is all too easy to forget who we are at our deepest core at this time in our world of uncertainty, be it because of COVID, political acrimony and the elections, social unrest, the assault of the “cancel culture”, the slaying of those going to morning Mass in Nice, France or the ever increasing challenge of assisting those caught in the cycle of poverty, homelessness, addiction, mental illness, etc.,.
“Beloved, see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we are called the children of God. Yet, so we are.”
Every year on November 1st, the Church celebrates all those holy women and men who have gone before us, whose lives were marked by their faithful response to their baptismal call to holiness.
This feast day was first celebrated in the fourth century to remember the early martyrs of the Church who were too numerous to count and whose names had been forgotten. It then included the “great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue, who stood before the throne and before the Lamb,” as we heard in our first reading.
These are the ones who throughout the centuries have realized the deep interior reality that they were loved by God at their deepest core. Because of being loved by God, they grew into the realization that they are truly blessed, beloved of God, called into deep union with God.
Most likely they would not have considered themselves “saints,” as we might define sainthood today. Yet, they sought to follow Jesus Christ as faithful disciples in their everyday life. They tried their best, even when they were at their worst, to look to Jesus and follow him.
For my Grandma Lee, holiness was to raise her four boys and daughter in the Catholic faith after her husband died in his late 40s. She always wanted to live close to the church so they could easily make it to Mass. The simplicity and depth of her faith inspired mine.
For Francis Griswold at Assumption Parish in Bellingham holiness was faithfulness to daily prayer, reading the lives of the saints, and helping with St. Vincent de Paul home visits well into his 80s after his wife died 20 years earlier.
For Claire, it was tending to the grieving families who gathered for the funerals of their loved one. She was there for years at almost every funeral making sure that everything was taken care of before she herself died and was buried from her parish, Saint Michael.
I could go on and on, as I suspect most of you could as well, thinking of those folks in our lives whose lives were modeled on that of Jesus Christ and his saints.
In our baptism, we are all called to holiness, to a life shaped by the Gospel values of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Our Gospel from the Sermon on the Mount offers us guidelines on how to live this baptismal call of discipleship.
Bombarded by the lures of consumerism, we are called to be poor in spirit.
In a world beset by war and violence, we are called to be peacemakers.
In a society that prioritizes competitiveness and ruthless individuality, we are called to be humble.
Where grief and discouragement prevail, we are called to be merciful.
In the face of injustice, we are invited to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
How different from our world today.
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us, that we are called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us, is that it did not know him.”
It is not always easy to strive to holiness.
It is not easy to believe that we are loved by God when forces of discouragement rage against us.
It is not easy to recognize that we are beloved of God when those whom we love do not return that love or respond with coldness, indifference and disregard.
It is not easy to feel God’s love and to consider oneself beloved of God when we struggle with habitual sin that steals our inner peace and joy.
Yet, this is who we are, loved by God and beloved of God, people of the Beatitudes.
This week I invite you to pray with the first two sections of our stewardship renewal theme this year. Pray with these words, “I am love by God. I am beloved of God.”
Pray these words into your heart. Then speak these words to others – to your spouse, your children, your extended family, the folks in the pews 6 feet away from you, those who are discouraged at work or in school, and especially those who do not experience that they are loved by God and beloved of God.
I suspect that when we do this, we, along with them, will grow in the holiness, bit by bit. Then hopefully, one day when people think of us, they might include us on this feast.
Please remember that you are loved by God and beloved of God.