Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints

November 1, 2020
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
Psalm 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12a

Time. We change our clocks this weekend to try and save some of the light that quickly disappears this time of year. We put on warmer clothes and spend a little more time indoors. In a certain sense, the setting of our clocks back one hour as part of Daylight Savings Time is an attempt by us to stave off the darkness that inevitably comes with winter. It is as if we barter with the darkness instead of turning to the light.

Time. November is a shadowy month, but God has provided us with more light that we frequently mischaracterize as twilight. God’s light is His Son, who comes to us through the grace of the Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism when our parents and godparents received the Light of Christ on our behalf. We have received this light, to be kept burning brightly, from those who have gone before us, those who have shared with us faith, hope, and love … and who continue to be with us. Those small candles at our baptisms were lit from the paschal candle which symbolizes Christ our light. Similarly, the lights who are the saints receive their light because they have been configured to Christ the Light through good works and love.

All Saints Day is not a visit to the Hall of Fame for Holiness. This is not a feast of such extraordinary men and women that proposes that holiness is so rare and difficult that it is impossible for people like us to attain. The exceptionalism of the lives of the saints cannot become our excuse for settling for spiritual and moral mediocrity. The exceptionalism of their lives is not so much characterized by their heroic deeds but rather by the love for Christ with which they performed them. The sad thing is not that so few succeed in lives of holiness but that so many abandon their call to holiness and willingly choose to fail by not even trying.

“The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” This world continues not to want to know Him and therefore does not really want to know us to the extent that we know Christ. Do we want to know Him better? Do we prefer to stave off the darkness and bargain for a little more time instead of carrying His light into the darkness with the confidence of saints?

We receive a name at Baptism. We receive the name that Christ will call us by when He comes again in the fullness of time. As members of the Communion of Saints we have a name and Christ calls us by that name, just as He called Mary Magdalene’s name after the Resurrection, Martha’s name when he called her away from preoccupation and worry, Peter’s name when He entrusted the keys to him, Francis’ name when He called him to rebuild His church that had fallen into ruin, and Teresa’s name when He called her on a train to Calcutta to love Him in the poorest of the poor. The Lord called each of us at our Baptism and he will speak our names again when we can no longer stave off the darkness of death through our own power. We will only recognize it to the extent that we have listened to His voice during our time in this world. To be a member of the Communion of the Saints is to have a name spoken in the Light, to be a member of the crowd is to settle for the mediocre darkness of crowded anonymity.

The poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, once observed: “The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” The difference is grace and conversion in the present moment. At some point in a saint’s life — those several thousand known by official canonization and those myriads upon myriads known to God alone — they begin to know God through Christ and they begin to care about Him. The saints, all of us, through grace can decide to experience conversion from sin and move from fearfully asking the spiritual question, “Will I be punished?” to asking the confident question, “How can I return your love, Oh God?”

Time. Because of our Baptism and accompanying call to holiness, we do not need to barter with the darkness for a little more twilight by moving our clocks. We should not let the darkness of our sins hang around our lives to distract us from the friendship that Christ offers us now. Eternal life begins here and now in the selflessness of love and comes to its culmination in the beatitude and joy of heaven. We pray for those who have died, and we pray to the saints in heaven united to us through the promise of eternal life — eternal life that is not some dark and shadowy void but that begins here and now through the Light of Love for which even darkness is not dark. Even more beautifully stated by Saint Therese of Lisieux, “I do not well see what more I shall have in Heaven than now. I shall see the good God, it is true; but as to being with Him, I am wholly with Him already upon earth.”

The gift of the Holy Spirit draws us into the disposition to live eternal life, the life of a saint, in the ordinariness of the here and now, away from the opaque mediocrity and dark complacency of sin.

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