Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints
Preached on October 31-November 1, 2016 at Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church, Morehead KY and Saint Julie Catholic Church, Owingsville KY
Readings: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a
We are surrounded by saints.
Yet, when we look around this Church, it sure does not look like it. That is because when we think of what saints are we think of holy men and women with halos on stained glass windows. We think of sacred statues of pious looking people frozen with a look of sanctity. Saints are those who are up there, not down here with us. We look around here and what we find are sinners like us. Saints then must be “those people” up in Heaven, not any of us sinners here on earth. None of us has made the cut yet; none of us are that big time.
We often fall into this same attitude that “it must be those people not us” when we hear the Beatitudes in the Gospel (cf. Mt. 5:3-11). It is true that we mourn like everybody else and we try our best to be peacemakers. But, the poor in spirit? (cf. Mt. 5:3) That must be a nun. The meek is somebody else. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (cf. Mt. 5:6) are the homeless. The merciful are monks in some faraway monastery. The clean of heart (cf. Mt. 5:8) no longer exists in our time, not with everything that we see on TV nowadays. Those who are persecuted (cf. Mt. 5:10-11) are the Christian martyrs in the Middle East.
It is so nice of Jesus to talk about those people in the Gospel, for Him to say that they are blessed. But, as far as we are concerned, the blessed are not us; they are somebody else. Those out there are the blessed, those up there are the saints, and then, there is us right here.
But, I am here to tell you that that kind of attitude is nonsense. In the years that I have heard confessions as a priest, I have found this to be true: none of us are big-time sinners (Thanks be to God!); what we are are lousy saints.
We are lousy saints and we are surrounded by other lousy saints. All of us fall into sin. We all have bad habits that we need to overcome. We find it difficult to follow through with the commandments. But, we also genuinely want to live good and holy lives and we want to love God and the Church. We are here today for a Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation; surely, that must count for something. We have not given up yet. As I have found out in many a confession, we still keep on trying. And that is exactly what saints are: saints are sinners who keep on trying.
We are sinners who keep on trying because, as the Psalm (24:6) beautifully puts it, we are “the people that longs to see [God’s] face.” Whether we realize it or not, to be a saint is our dream.
We keep on trying because, as the Book of Revelation (7:9) reminds us, we are destined to be counted in that “great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Whether we realize it or not, to be a saint is our destiny.
We keep on trying because, “beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 Jn. 3:2). Whether we realize it or not, to be a saint is already part of our identity.
That is what we are called to be and Jesus lists in the Beatitudes (cf. Mt. 5:3-12) what we are called to do. The Church has even gone so far as to canonize saints, men and women of the Beatitudes in every age, to be our models. We are called to be saints and, although we might be lousy at it right now, we are nonetheless saints-in-the-making. Even all those holy men and women whom we celebrate today had to start somewhere and they remind us that all we need is God’s grace—and there is plenty of that to go around—and to keep trying until we finally make it.
So, let us get to work. Heaven is waiting. All those haloed hallowed men and women want us to keep them company.