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Homily – Feast of All Saints (2009): Who Wants to Be a Saint?

November 2, 2009

Gospel reading Audio is here.  Gospel Text is here

Homily audio is here.

Who Wants To Be A Saint?

Have you ever thought about what it takes to be a saint?  We have feast days of saints all the time; our churches are named after them most of the time.  If our children are baptized or confirmed, we probably had to pick out the name of a saint for our child, or help them pick one.  There are even cities named after saints: St. Louis; St. Petersburg; St. Paul; San Francisco.  Saints are all around us.

But how often do we think about what it takes to be one?  The Feast of All Saints, which we celebrate today, was originally established in the fourth century to commemorate the martyrs of the early Church, those who were too many to name, or even remember individually.  Later, it was amended to include all the saints who’d died in Christ, all those who, by popular opinion had led a life of sanctity.  Today, the Church has extensive rules and processes for canonizing, or officially recognizing, a saint. But the Feast of All Saints recognizes everyone in heaven, saints named and unnamed, and celebrates their lives.

But what does it take, really, to be a saint?  And what does it matter to us

Today’s readings tell us a lot about who the saints are, and how they get to that status.  In the first reading, from the book of Revelation, John recounts a vision of heaven, in which he saw “of a great multitude, which no one could count” standing before the throne of God.  These people, dressed in white robes, were “the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” These are people who have overcome sin in their lives through the saving power of Jesus’ blood.

Jesus Himself tells us about those who will be with God, in the Beatitudes. These eight categories of those who will be “bless-ed” tell us a lot about how we ought to live our lives; striving to do these eight things outlined by Jesus will make getting into heaven pretty simple!  If we can be humble of heart; submissive to God; mournful over the power of evil in the world; eager to grow in holiness; merciful toward the less fortunate; focused on seeing God’s glory; willing to make peace; and willing to suffer for the sake of God’s kingdom, we will be together with God in His kingdom!

But all of that “Church-speak” doesn’t really tell us anything about how we’re supposed to live, does it?  The Beatitudes don’t directly address the things that are problems for us…do they? 

Maybe they do.  Look for a moment.  If we are “poor of heart”, then money and things aren’t our first priority: God is.  If we have a sense of the greatness of God, then we will also understand why we need to submit ourselves to His will.  If the evil we see in the world makes us sad, and if we act to oppose that evil, then we’ll act to lessen its effects on people.  If seeking God is the first priority of our lives, then everything we do, every decision we make, will move us closer to Him.  And if we work to establish peace among men, and if we accept that people are going to beat us up for it, then we will establish the kingdom of heaven where we are.

It’s really pretty simple.  Jesus gives us the formula for achieving sainthood right here in this Gospel text!  And when we examine the lives of the saints, we see examples of all of these traits that we can follow.  The very reason we keep track of all of this is so that we will understand how to live holy lives! 

But if it were that simple, sin would already be defeated, right?  If it were just a matter of following eight simple rules, no one would ever have to worry about becoming a saint, would they?  Everyone would be a saint! 

Reality, though, is that we are constantly pulled in the opposite direction: much in our world is simply not of God, and is designed to pull us away from Him.  But, fortunately for us, God gave us tools to use to help us on our way.  First, he gave us the sacraments, those outwards signs instituted by Christ to give grace.  They are the most important weapon we have in fighting for sainthood.

More importantly, though, God gave us each other.  We all have a role to play in each others’ journey to heaven!  Look around you.  Husbands and wives, your first priority is to help your spouse get to heaven!  That’s your job!  Parents, as I have told so many of you at baptisms, your job is to keep little Johnny or Jane…out of Hell!  Those of you with brothers or sisters, it’s your responsibility to model what it means to be a Christian, to be a saint, for your siblings.

 Every one of us in the Body of Christ has a job to do: to help all the other members of that body get to heaven!  And if we’re all doing our job, then all of us will join the saints!   

What does it take to be a saint?  The Church has a lengthy process for “making saints”; it can take decades sometimes for the Church to officially recognize a saint.

But brothers and sisters, we all have the job, as Christians, of striving to become saints.  Sainthood isn’t easy; the lives of the saints are full of sacrifice.  But that sacrifice has a goal:  To be with God in heaven.

We’re not alone on that journey.  Everyone here around us should be helping us toward that goal.  And God wants us all to be with Him in Heaven.  

Think about it:  who’s helping you to become a saint?  Who are you helping?  What’s holding you back from becoming a saint?  And who might you be holding back?

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