From St. Paul, writing to the Colossians:
“For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (3:3)
And from St. Paul writing to the Galatians:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (2:20)
Outside of Easter, of course, today is, I think, the most important in the Church’s year, for today is the feast by which Christianity proves itself to be true. All Saints’ Day. Christianity proves itself because it makes saints, and we celebrate them today. Christianity results in women and men whose lives have been changed, whose lives have been enriched, whose lives have been transformed into the image of their maker and their Savior. Transformed. And yet more than transformed, for the life of their Savior lives in them and they mystically live in Him. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
If Christianity did not make saints, there would be no point to it. No point at all. It would be nothing more than a dozen or so empty beliefs which look like superstition. It might be thought to be oppressive and ignorant. It might even be reckoned something to get rid of for the common good. If Christianity did not make saints, all those things might well be right and proper.
But again, as I said, today – All Saints’ Day – Christianity proves itself, for Christianity makes saints. Those who follow Jesus, and acknowledge Him as Lord, those who receive Him mystically by water and bread and wine live by His life and who pattern their lives on His. And their lives make known His life, His love, His strength, His courage, His peace. They – saints – are His body. They – saints – are His risen body in the world, and they – saints, Christians – make a difference in the life of the world, for they bring Christ, really and truly and bodily, into the life of the world. Together with the sacraments, they are his real presence in the life of the world. They know Christ, and they make him known. Today – All Saints’ Day – Christianity proves itself to be true.
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From the Gospel today, we heard this: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. ( Mt. 5 )
There are all kinds of saints, all shapes and sizes, just as there are all kinds of people, for sanctity does not eradicate personality; rather, it enhances it. The life of Christ within makes persons more themselves. What they are is magnified by the grace of Christ within. They become who they really are, who God destined them to be.
There are all kinds of saints, just as there are manifold and various gifts bestowed upon men and women by God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit grants what is needed to make Christ known in the world. Wisdom, knowledge, faith, love, healing, prophecy, discernment, hope, courage, and more are gifts of the Holy Spirit to women and men who – saints – make Christ known in the world.
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During the year there are various special days for special saints. We celebrated one only a few weeks ago. St. Francis. He would vehement deny it to be sure, but we might well call him a hero of the Faith. And there many other such heroes. St. Augustine. St. Benedict. Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our own time.
And we need heroes in the Faith, just as we need them, I suppose, in sports. Because they show us something exceptional, an accomplishment that amazes us, a possibility far beyond the usual limit of possibility. We need such heroes, and we celebrate them.
But, I have to tell you that I am often cowed by heroes. I am a bit frightened of them, because if they inspire – which they do – they also show me up for what I am. A pretty ordinary garden-variety Christian, who “on the race that is set before me” often stumbles and falls, but, by God’s grace, gets up and keeps on going.
Most of us, I think, are like that, and so in fact were those we look to as heroes. They stumbled and fell and by God’s grace in Jesus got up and got going again. And so when we celebrate them what we really celebrate is God’s grace in Jesus. And today we celebrate that also in ourselves. God’s grace in Jesus is why we are here and keeps us coming back.
God’s grace in Jesus has created that great cloud of witnesses who testify to the victory of the Lamb. Some are bright lights. Others, one might say, have a lesser luminosity, but together they form a shining cloud of grace and glory, of love and joy, and they witness to the victory of God.