01 Nov Solemnity of All Saints
By: Fr. Shawn Hughes
November 1, 2016.
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you,
1st reading: Revelation 7.2-4, 9-14;
2nd reading: 1 John 3.1-3;
Gospel: Matthew 5.1-12a;
We celebrate two wonderful solemn feast days today and tomorrow. November 1 celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints, those who have attained their eternal reward and are with God in Heaven. November 2nd recognizes and prays for those Souls who have died and are in Purgatory. Those who will end up in Heaven but are not there just yet. The souls in Purgatory are being purified from the consequences of the confessed sins still remaining on their souls after death; a purification necessary before their going to Heaven, which they will do.
Our readings today focus on the Solemnity of All Saints.
The saints in heaven reveal the gifts God has given in this life to all and honours those who have so completely cooperated with those gifts. Their lives offer us powerful witness; example and encouragement, and their intercessory prayers for us now help us and give us their companionship.
We often think of being holy, of being a saint as something very rare, for the select few. That is not the case. The ordinary goal of the Christian life is to be a saint. The whole purpose of the church, the priesthood, the sacraments, the Mass, the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy…the whole purpose of all of it is to make us saints. The only people in heaven will be saints. And if heaven is the goal for all of us then, hopefully, we are all in the process of becoming saints.
The things of this world: wealth or its lack, power or its absence, good reputation or bad reputation… all of that ultimately does not matter. What ultimately matters…what only matters …is being holy…which very simply means being the person that God created you to be…a saint with Him in heaven.
That is what we should think about every day. That’s what we should worry about above all. Do we think about that? Do we worry about that…The key question…or the key worry of our life should be « am I becoming a saint? »
What does this mean…to be a saint? To be a saint means to be holy… and to be holy is to follow God’s will. God’s will is always a will to love and love is to will the good of the other…so to be holy or to be a saint is to will the good of the other selflessly.
Sounds so easy to say…It probably is the most difficult thing in the world to do.
Today’s gospel, the Beatitudes which begins the Sermon on the Mount, helps a great deal in sorting out really what it is to be holy.
What makes us Blessed or happy…is none other than holiness, that’s who God has created us to be.
Jesus said: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. This is the very core meaning of the gospel…of all that Jesus spoke. That is what God is…God is merciful…and we are blessed when we participate in it.
Said slightly differently: Blessed are the pure of heart… blessed are the clean of heart… to be pure or clean of heart is to desire one thing…Soren once said « a saint is someone who desires the one thing. » A key question today: « What is the desire of my heart? » « What is the desire of the deepest core of me… at the centre of my being? » A Saint’s heart is undivided. The key problem in the spiritual life is that our hearts are divided.
Saints desire to conform their hearts to the love that God is.
Said slightly differently: Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We hunger and thirst for all kinds of things. Some good. Some bad. We should always desire to do the right thing. The Godly thing.
In our decision making each and every day we need to ask ourselves: “What is the right thing to do…at this moment… in this situation? » Or am I more focused on my elf, asking: « What is the expedient thing to do? What is the pleasurable thing to do? What puts me in a more advantageous position? »
It would be interesting to give a day over and focus on this question? « What is the right thing to do? » asking… « What would conform me, more and more to the love that God is? » If we ask that question: “What is the right thing to do?” in each situation in our day, we slowly become the beatitude… someone who is hungering and thirsting for righteousness. St. Therese of Lisieux called this her « Little Way »…discerning what the demand of love is in the present moment… asking in every instance… right now…what is the loving thing to do… if we desire that all the time then we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness…
Doing all of this automatically makes us peacemakers… Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. Someone who asks, what is the merciful thing to do? What is the right thing to do? What is the loving thing to do? In all situations…someone who not only asks, but does it…such a person radiates peace to all those around them.
The other four beatitudes name the four ways in which we tend to avoid the first four. They focus on the four great things we tend to run after and substitute for God: Wealth, pleasure, power and honour.
« Blessed are the poor in spirit » How lucky, how happy, how blessed we are if we are not overly attached to material things. Put differently…we need to stop hungering and thirsting for the material things of this world and hunger and thirst for what is right, loving and merciful. If we truly hunger for righteousness then we will know what to do with the money we have. Over attachment to money gets us off the path to sanctity.
Similarly: Blessed are those who mourn. Mourning in the sense of sadness that comes from giving up something to which we are overly attached. How happy we are if we are no longer overly attached to pleasure.
This is not easy. Sometimes doing the will of God, which is the real source of joy, involves anything but pleasure. Look at St. Francis of Assisi… the path of true joy for him was precisely when he accepted all kinds of suffering, giving up his family’s wealth and the pleasure, power and honour that came with it, out of love for God. Another way of saying… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…blessed are those who are not overly attached to wealth, pleasure, power, and honour.
Blessed are the meek. Many of us are overly attached to some form of power as a substitute for God. We tend to fill up the infinite longing of the heart with this earthly good. How lucky we are if we are not addicted to power. If we walk the path of meekness. Meekness, gentleness is power under control.
Finally, since many of us are overly attached to earthly honour, Jesus says…. blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you…falsely because of me…For those overly attached to worldly honour…blessed are you when you are insulted for Jesus’ sake.
The spiritual masters say that we will grow in the spiritual life if every single day we have the opportunity for humiliation… and when we think about it…if pride is the basic problem …then humiliation can lead to its antidote, humility.
We need to take a good long look at Jesus on the Cross and ask ourselves…what was Jesus’ relationship to wealth, power, pleasure and honour?
This all brings to mind a quote from Pope Pius XI which I came across recently…Remember he was pope during the 1920’s and 30’s…before and right up to the outbreak of the Second World War…He said: “Let us thank God that He makes us live among the present problems. It is no longer permitted to anyone to be mediocre.”
It is a remarkable challenge. In all situations of our daily life he was challenging us to ask what is the merciful thing to do, what is the right thing to do? What is the most loving thing to do?
Thus I would like propose some key questions for daily homework this week: I would like you to reflect on the question: What IS the true desire of my heart? Is it to be a saint…or something less? Asking daily in each situation: What is the right thing to do? Asking in each situation, especially in each relationship: What is the most merciful, the most loving thing to do?
One of the great spiritual writers of the 20th Century said there is only one true sadness in the life…and that is not to be a saint.
Daily Prayer – 2015-11-01
“Come to me all you who are burdened and I will give you rest” Here I am, Lord. I come to seek your presence. I long for your healing power.
Dear Lord, instil in my heart the desire to know and love you more. May I respond to your will for my life.
To be conscious about something is to be aware of it. Dear Lord help me to remember that You gave me life. Thank you for the gift of life. Teach me to slow down, to be still and enjoy the pleasures created for me. To be aware of the beauty that surrounds me. The marvel of mountains, the calmness of lakes, the fragility of a flower petal. I need to remember that all these things come from you.
The Word of God
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Some thoughts on today’s scripture:
Why read the Beatitudes on the Feast of All Saints? Because they get to the heart of holiness. They express the values to which Christians are called at their baptism. When we meet someone whose life expresses these values we recognize a saint.
Note that the word Beatitudes means blessings. These are not commandments to be obeyed but blessings to be sought. Is there any one in particular you would like to have? Pray for it today.
Dear Jesus, I can open up my heart to you.
I can tell you everything that troubles me.
I know you care about all the concerns in my life.
Teach me to live in the knowledge that you who care for me today,
will care for me tomorrow and all the days of my life.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
November 1, All Saints’ Day, and November 2nd, all Souls’ Day, lovingly focus our attention on the End Goal of this life after death.
In the Old Testament the Second Book of Maccabees states that it is “a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” (2 Maccabees 12:46) and in the New Testament St. Paul in his second letter to Timothy prays for his friend Onesiphorus who had died. He states “May the Lord grant that he (Onesiphorus) find mercy of the Lord in that day.” (2 Timothy 1:18)
Maccabees and First Timothy state categorically that we should pray for the dead. And thus the Church, from its earliest days has done likewise, prayed for the souls of those who have gone ahead of us. We pray for the faithful departed at every single Mass that is celebrated. When we think about those who have died. Those who have attained the eternal blessedness of heaven don’t need our prayers. Any sins they have committed have been purified either in this life or in the next. We know that by the very fact that we must be sinless to be able to be in the presence of God. We also know that those who may be in Hell, cannot benefit from our prayers because they have made an eternal choice away from God. Therefore, if it is “a good and wholesome act to pray for the dead,” there must be a state other than Heaven or Hell where those who have died benefit from our prayers. The Church has come to call that state Purgatory. A state where those who have died, who have not made an eternal choice away from God are purified from the sins which remain on their soul at the moment of death.
About Purgatory the Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing Pope St Gregory the Great, explains: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”
“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” (Pope St. Gregory the Great) (CCC#1030, 1031)
Purgatory – what a strange and scary sounding word to some. The word Purgatory comes from the old Latin word “purgare,” which means “to cleanse” or “to purge.” So you can think of purgatory as a time of cleansing or final purification in preparation to spend eternity in the presence of God. In purgatory, as the Catechism explains, the faithful – those who are destined for heaven – “achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030)
The Catechism goes on to say: “The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect. (CCC 1032)
In his book on “The End Times” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) further clarifies the church’s teaching in this area: “Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i.e., capable of full unity with Christ and God] and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord (is) this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.”
Purgatory Does Not Actually Involve an Amount of Time
Time is the first thing God created. It is of this world. It only exists on this side of death. When we enter eternity, measurable time – as we know it – stops. When we talk about time with respect to the purification of the faithful departed in purgatory, it actually refers to the desire we have to ease of the pain of purification.
Some would argue that purification would be instantaneous, which is again a measurement of time. We really can’t speak of this process in terms of an interval; it is a personal involvement, and experience.
In his wonderful encyclical letter, Saved by Hope, Pope Benedict XVI writes: “It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning; it is the heart’s time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ”.
Purgatory calls us to remember that sin contains a double consequence (CCC #1472). There is the eternal punishment, for which Christ has already atoned. But there is a temporal punishment; what we might call the stain of sin, something unhealthy that attaches to us. It is for this temporal punishment, that purgatory is our means of cleansing.
We Can Participate in the Lives of Those Who Are Going Through Purification
What we do here on earth can count for our loved one’s in purgatory. This is one of the beautiful dimensions of All Souls’ Day; when we are reminded that we can make a difference in the lives of those in the Church triumphant who are experiencing the refiner’s fire.
We are a part of the Church’s treasury, explained beautifully in the Catechism.
“The Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God’s grace is not alone. ‘The life of each of God’s children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person.’
“In the communion of saints, ‘a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.’ In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.” (CCC 1474, 1475)
This treasury is made up, then, of the Masses, the Rosaries, the sacrifices and all other prayers, along with works in charity and spiritual service offered for the intention of the ones departed.
I would encourage you today, take time to remember the poor souls in purgatory; members of your family, your friends and others that have crossed your path before they entered death’s door. Pray for them. They are poor because they have yet to see the heavenly vision that awaits them not because they are destitute or hopeless. In fact, they are filled with hope and joy as their destiny has been sealed. They will see God face to face.
On this day when we remember all the faithful departed, let us never think that people are dead and gone. They have entered into eternity. Let us also remember that purgatory is a doctrine of love, the love of a God who wants us to be truly free – and find our completion and joy in His eternal embrace of communion with Him in Heaven.
So let us conclude for all the deceased members of each of our families and the deceased members of this cathedral parish.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them, may their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.