Nov. 1, 2015: All Saints
Click to hear Audio Homily
Earlier this week, a couple of men from our parish and I participated in a men’s prayer group at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Pierre Part. During the prayer meeting, the Gospel reading for All Saints was read aloud and the men were asked to to reflect on the words of Jesus. We spent over an hour discussing what the Beatitudes meant for us. What does it mean for you when Jesus says, happy or blessed are you who are humble in spirit, those who are gentle, peace makers, pure in heart, upright, grieving, or persecuted?
Pope Francis said that the Beatitudes spell out a programme for Christian life. “The Beatitudes are Jesus' portrait, his way of life, and they are the way of true happiness, which we also can live with the grace that Jesus gives us… The world tells us that happiness, joy and entertainment are the best things in life. And it looks the other way when there are problems of disease or pain in the family. The world does not want to suffer, it prefers to ignore painful situations, to cover them up. Only the person who sees things as they are, and whose heart mourns, will be happy and will be comforted.”
Those who take the Beatitudes to heart are ones who are truly following the footsteps of Jesus. He said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:29) For more than 2,000 years men and women, old and young, wise and ignorant, have heeded the call from Jesus, “You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). Looking at Jesus, we see what it means to be poor in spirit, to be gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say to each of us, “Come, follow me!” Jesus does not say simply, “Do what I say”. He says, “Come, follow me!”
Whether we are aware or not, each of us has a deep hunger for God, an insatiable need to be close to Him, to belong to Him, and to love Him, and we hear in the deep core of our hearts this call to follow Jesus to live the lives of holiness. The word 'holiness' describes this hunger; to be holy is to be set apart, to love and serve Our Lord and our neighbor. Holiness is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavor but rather a continuous choice to deepen one’s relationship with God and to then allow this relationship to guide all of one’s actions in the world. Holiness requires a radical change in mindset and attitude. The acceptance of the call to holiness places God as our final goal in every aspect of our lives. The saints have set examples for us for holiness.
Take the example of an 11yr. old, St. Maria Goretti. She was brutally murdered by an 18-yr. old neighbor, Alessandro, while trying to protect her purity. Even when her life was threatened, she believed with all her heart that her body was the temple of the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit of God was living in her. Before she breathed her last, she forgave Alessandro. While in prison and still unrepentant of his crime, Maria Goretti appeared to him in a vivid dream where he saw her giving him 14 lilies. The 14 lilies were sign to him that she had truly forgiven him for the 14 stab wounds that he had inflicted on her. This dream profoundly changed him. After getting out of prison 27 years later, the first thing he did was to seek the forgiveness from Maria's mother. Her mother caressed his face and said, "Alessandro, Maria forgave you, Christ has forgiven you, and why should I not also forgive. I forgive you, of course, my son!” St. Maria Goretti's holiness and sacrifice put Alessandro on the path to holiness. Alessandro later became a religious friar and traveled with Maria’s mother to the canonization mass in Rome. What profound mercy was shown by Maria Goretti and her mother! This weekend, the relic of St. Maria Goretti is in Our Lady of Mercy for veneration.
The Saints and Blesseds, both named and not named, are travel companions along our journey of the joys and sufferings of life. They are men and women who wrote a new page in their lives and in the lives of so many people for how to live according to the Beatitudes. Holiness is not a gift reserved for a few. We can all aspire to it, because it is a goal within our capacity. Not to be a saint is the greatest tragedy that can befall a Catholic. Believers in Jesus and his message must allow themselves to be enticed and enchanted by his life and message contained in the Beatitudes. Today we must hold up the Beatitudes as a mirror in which we examine our own lives and consciences. “Am I poor in spirit? Am I humble and merciful? Am I pure of heart? Do I bring peace? Am I ‘blessed,’ in other words, happy? Jesus not only gives us what he has, but also what he is. He is holy and makes us holy.