Dear Followers of Jesus,
Today is All Saint’s Day. This year, November 1, falls on Sunday. So, we celebrate the gift of our saints in Christ Jesus in our Sunday Masses. I love the official catalogue of canonized saints. I take great consolation in their commitment. I am inspired by their lives here on earth. Some saints are quirky, and many may even seem weird. Yet, they all gave their lives to God in the ways in which they were called to love and serve.
The saint is really someone here on earth who discovers love of God and love of neighbor. Saints discover an intentional life, that is, they pray in the moment, they love with integrity and they act with great discernment. Saints reveal that a relationship with God is absolutely possible here on earth. They learned in the deepest places of their hearts to trust God, to surrender everything to the mystery of God’s love for them. The amazing thing about saints is that we can’t imitate their lives. We can learn from them about God’s fidelity and grace, but to imitate them exactly does not make us saints. We have to do the work of prayer in our own lives. In other words, we can’t live someone else’s life. That does not make us a saint.
The only way into the depths of God’s love and fidelity is to live the truth of our own lives. This may take us years to discover. Theresa of Avila and Oscar Romero show us that it takes many years to finally realize our call and act upon such a reality. Some people know it early in life or give up all they possess in order to carve a new path. Francis of Assisi is such an example. Mary Magdalene had the privilege of gazing into the eyes of Jesus and many other saints came to know the face of Christ in the poor, the suffering or disabled. Some saints are intellects and some are hermits. Some are clerics and some are widows. Each life on earth is a mystery, and each life on earth has the potential of becoming a mystic, that is a person who realizes that God’s love is the guide for his or her life. In many ways, each of us is called to become a mystic, to live a life of prayer and service and to realize that God is our true identity.
The road map to becoming a saint is today’s gospel, Matthew 5: 1-12. The Beatitudes are always read on All Saint’s Day. We may hear this gospel at a funeral or even an ordination. These Beatitudes are the commandments of Jesus given to the disciples in his voice on the side of a mountain. They are often overlooked as a path to holiness because they are not as dogmatic as the Ten Commandments. This list is centered on Christ Jesus and at its core is love. Love is often dismissed as a way to faith because it is often seen as only romantic silliness. However, this list gives us the real mission of the Church. This list is far more difficult than the Ten Commandments.
The Beatitudes offer us a path to heaven and a saintly life here on earth. They do so because they first lift up the poor. They affirm our challenge to offer mercy and not hatred, love and not violence. This list is the most radical statement of faith in the gospels and it is the list that is seldom trusted or made real. It changes not only hearts, but society and the world. It overthrows what we may think life should be and what justice is all about. It turns the tables on our notions of how to live and how to survive in society. Perhaps the Beatitudes are the reason why there are so few saints today, because at first glance, they turn life inside out.
How difficult today it is to act mercifully. Mercy after all is not a commodity; it is a result of knowing God from within our hearts. We can’t manufacture mercy or peace or comfort toward the grieving. The Beatitudes are lived in hearts that first know and understand the fidelity of God. The Beatitudes carve an empty place within our hearts only to be filled with God’s love, integrity and power. These words from Jesus are radical and the concepts are countercultural. Yet, they remain a blueprint for sainthood.
We all desire to live in the love God has for each of us. We can’t duplicate a life set free in God’s faithfulness nor can we copy exactly how God desires us to serve and to act in our Church and world. The fire of faith is given to each of us as God desires. Collectively in the Church, we call people who know such fire, saints. We celebrate such a gift and mystery this day on the Solemnity of All Saints.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor