Br. Bernard Delcourt, OHC
All Saints A – Saturday 01 November 2014
1 John 3:1-3
|The Communion of Saints|
Today is a joyous day as we celebrate All Saints, every one of them: alive, or in heaven, known or unknown. Saints are a gift from God to help us on our own journey towards holiness.
Saints have virtuous and godly lives as today’s collect suggests. In their amazing diversity saints share many traits. John A. Coleman, a Jesuit teacher at the Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley lists 6 common traits of saints across religions:
- They are exemplary models. Their lives give us something to emulate.
- They are extraordinary teachers. They throw light on special parts of the religious life that we learn more about in studying them.
- They are wonder workers. They achieve signs in their lives, and beyond, that point to God.
- They are intercessors. They are friends in our prayer.
- They often refuse material attachments or comforts. They only need God and very little else.
- They possess a special relation to the holy. They find meaning and purpose in their relationship to the divine and they teach us that.
Some of us may have favorite saints in heaven. A few of my favorites are St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, St Therese of Lisieux and Father Huntington, our founder.
Some of us may suspect we know saints on earth. In any case, there are many more saints to be emulated than would fit in any church’s calendar.
Earthly or heavenly, each of them can help you towards union with God.
In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us something about holiness, about sainthood.
Matthew describes Jesus as sitting among his disciples and teaching them about values of the Kingdom of God. We know those teachings as the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes according to Matthew are like a program for the Kingdom of God. Not only do they comfort those who are not usually seen as the strong ones in this world; but in so doing, they also give us a model to follow in our lives.
The Beatitudes tell us of realities that already are and of realities that are in the process of becoming. Each Beatitude uses the present tense in its first clause and often the future tense in its second clause.
The Beatitudes have that paradoxical quality of the Kingdom of God; the reality they state is already here and yet not fully completed. We are to live into the Kingdom of God as it already is and to build it up as it is yet in progress.
The word that we translate into Blessed or Happy in English is Ashar in Hebrew. The meaning of Blessed or Happy in English is a bit too meek for the richer, more dynamic content of Ashar.
Literally, Ashar means “to find the right road.” In its nine uses in the Beatitudes, we can think of it as “you are on the right road when… fill in the blank”.
For example, “You are on the right road when you walk not in the way of unrighteousness but in the way of the Law of God.”
That meaning of the Hebrew word Ashar puts the stress on the beatitudes as a program towards holiness. And a journey toward holiness is what sainthood is about. And we are meant to be on that same journey with all the saints in heaven and on earth.
That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect now. Saints are not perfect, but they are exemplary in their steadfast journeying towards perfection. So we have to get on the road and keep walking in the direction of holiness, no matter what detours we may get waylaid on.
And luckily for us, we are not alone on our journey. Jesus promised to be with his disciples till the end of time. And Jesus is with us through his mystical body, the communion of saints. When we come forward for the Eucharist, we renew our consent to Jesus’ redeeming work in us and we renew our belonging in the communion of saints.
The communion of saints is the spiritual union of God’s children, living and dead, those on earth and those in heaven. Note that, that communion of saints includes you, as it befits one whose duty is to seek holiness in your relationship with God and humanity.
For some of us, myself included, that communion of saints is way wider than any one church or religion. It is even wider than all churches and religions. For me the communion of saints includes all those whom God considers her children and I am not to judge whether anybody qualifies or not.
My hope is that in God’s infinite mercy and loving-kindness, most everyone who at some point, in this life, or in the next, embraces God and God’s commandment to love universally is counted as a child of God.
I know, that’s pretty radically inclusive, but it preserves each soul’s freedom of choice. And maybe some souls continue to choose to be alienated from God no matter how loving God’s invitation to relate with her is. But in God’s infinite mercy, we all get repeated chances to keep choosing to be a child of God.
We may not be saints yet, but with God’s help anything is possible. We can steadfastly keep walking towards sainthood. Let the Beatitudes be your guide and invite the saints to be your mentors. Know that God is rooting for you and wants you to be a saint, a faithful pilgrim on the road to union with her. And we can always rely on God’s love to give us yet another chance at holiness.
So as you go on celebrating All Saints today, know that you are surrounded by an infinite cloud of witnesses who desire to support you in your journey towards God.
God is glorified in each and every one of God’s Saints.
All Saints of God, pray for us. Amen.