Solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1
Mt. 5: 1-12
Happy Feast Day to all of you! Today is our day to rejoice at where we find ourselves: in step with the Lord and very accepting of the fact that we are his daughters and sons, that we are indeed his Holy People, Saints of God. All of us are “in via,” on the way, in our pilgrimage back to our Creator. We are making progress toward our goal. We are pilgrims: we wander a bit here and there, sometimes getting off the straight and narrow path a bit, only to find it again and continue on our way.
In our Gospel for today, Jesus is talking to all of us from the holy mountain in chapter 5 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. He speaks the Beatitudes, our means to happiness, our way to becoming his Holy People. The Beatitudes map out for us our way and we all find ourselves somewhere in the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. We realize who and what we really are. We try and walk humbly with our God. We trust him with our wills and our lives and he in turn gives us the gift of his Kingdom, his happiness here on earth. We don’t deserve it; we don’t earn it. It is his gift to us because we choose to follow him and be his Saints.
Blessed are the sorrowing. The sorrowing are happy? Sounds like a contradiction to me! Yet, because we are poor in spirit, trust God, lean on him, we discover that the purpose of our occasional sorrow is to lead us to joy. We give ourselves permission to feel sorrow. If we want to cry, we cry. But while we are weeping we offer the sorrow to the Lord, and this brings joy that I have something to offer to God who has offered so much to me.
Blessed are the meek. This does not mean that we are weak. Meekness and weakness are not the same thing. Meekness is strength, the strength to remain calm, quiet, and gentle no matter what bothers us.. A meek person is too strong to have to fight back. Meekness is freedom, freedom to be who we are and not what others might like us to be. Meek people are not angry.
Blessed are those who desire holiness. We have to desire holiness, be willing to be holy, be willing to enter through the narrow gate. Being a holy person is not easy. It means we are willing to go against the grain, to be different. I am reminded here of the fact that each of us has a God-shaped-hole within us that only God can fill. Only God is God-shaped and will fit the hole to fill it. And when he fills us we become whole and complete. We become a people of prayer, a people of God, and enjoy the peace and joy that comes with being that.
Blessed are they who show mercy. Mercy is good will toward others. My mentally handicapped brother was indeed a merciful person. He quite literally loved everyone and desired everyone to love him. He reached out to others and was always ready to forgive if necessary. Mercy accepts other people as they are.
Blessed are the single-hearted. The words “single-hearted” replace for some the words “pure of heart.” Soren Kirkegaard, a Danish Christian philosopher said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” That meant for him to have one aim in life, to submit all to that simple priority. The words “single-hearted” express this idea well. And our priority is God himself. All we do, all we think, all we desire, is bounced off God. What would God have me do in this situation? This approaches having true wisdom, doing things the right way, the way God would do it.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Peace here means that inner peace we all desire so much, that peace that does away with the worry and anxiety and tension that cause so much trouble and discomfort to those who have them. Peace here is tranquility, freedom from restlessness. This reminds me of the prayer of St. Augustine: Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you. When our hearts rest in God, then we become peacemakers for others.
This is the way to holiness given us by Jesus himself in his Sermon on the Mount. This is our way. We are all somewhere along this way. We are all Saints to a degree. So again, Happy Feast Day.
All Souls Day, Nov. 2
John 6: 37-40
“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.”
This Feast of the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed always reminds me of my first day at the Minor Seminary long ago in 1945. I was being escorted on a tour of my new home by one of the senior students who was in his 4th year. I remember we started at the top and worked our way down. Finally, on the lower floor, we entered the refectory or dining room. As we were walking through it, I noticed a picture frame hanging on the wall with no picture in it. I noticed it contained a short list of about 15 names. I asked our guide what that was all about and he told me it was a necrology, a list of all the deceased Friars of the Province who were buried in the Province Cemetery just down the road a bit. As I took a closer look at it, I saw it contained a message written in Latin that went around the edge of the paper, It said: Memento me, memento me, saltem vos amici mei.
Translated: Remember me, remember me, at least you my friends.
I remember yet how sad that made me feel; that those who had gone before and done so much had to practically beg to be remembered by the living. I have never forgotten this moment in my life. And I believe I promised then not to forget our deceased Friars. Every time I return to the Mount, where I went for Minor Seminary training, I make it a point to visit that cemetery that now has over a hundred graves. I try and go around to all of them, remembering the ones I knew and what they did.
It is good to remember those who have gone before us in death who we will someday join. May they all rest in eternal peace.
Tuesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time, Nov. 3
Luke 14: 15-24
“Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.”
Our Gospel for today tells us that we will be happy if we can sit down and dine in the Kingdom of God. To me this is another way of saying we will be happy if we are one with the Lord, if we are his friend and walking with him as our companion. Usually we don’t sit down to eat with strangers. Dining with someone means we care for them and want to be with them. The people in today’s Gospel parable had all kinds of excuses for not joining Jesus at table. They chose not to dine with him and offered their flimsy excuses. Their daily affairs and doings were more important to them than the Kingdom of God. That is so sad!
Have we accepted the Lord’s invitation to come and dine with him, to be one with him, to acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior? Or do we, too, make flimsy excuses, alibis or rationalizations for continuing to go our own way with our own priorities? Once again, the choice is ours.
Wednesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time, Nov. 4
Luke 14: 25-33
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Accepting the Lord’s invitation to dine in the Kingdom of God with him is also an invitation to discipleship. Today’s Gospel selection takes it another step forward with the duty to carry our own cross as we follow Christ. Discipleship requires a singleness of purpose; no earthly attachments be they person, place or thing, should keep us from following Jesus.
We have seen a number of times before in these homilies just what it means to carry our own cross daily. Once again, following the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we are to carry the burdens of others and particularly in forgiving those who have hurt us in any way. We do not carry resentments, but rather the faults and failings of those we resent. And they in turn are to carry our weaknesses. Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy, and we must acknowledge the fact that personal sacrifice must be part of it.
This section of Luke’s Gospel dealing with the requirements for discipleship ends with the metaphor that we are the salt of the earth. We cease to be salt if we ignore our duty to carry our cross daily and in so doing we also cease to be disciples of Christ.
Thursday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time, Nov. 5
Luke 15: 1-10
Today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke contains two parables: the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. Let’s focus on the parable of the lost sheep.
This parable tells the story of a shepherd who has a flock of 100 sheep. He notices in his count that one of them is missing. So he leaves the 99 and goes in search of that one lost sheep. And when he finds it, he is so full of joy that he even invites his friends and neighbors to celebrate with him.
My Commentary on the Scriptures points out that this story of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go in search of the one that is lost is absolutely beyond imagination and ridiculous. It points out that no shepherd in his right mind would leave 99 sheep to fend for themselves while he went looking for one stray. It is also unthinkable to invite his friends to celebrate with him the fact that he has found the one sheep. The Commentary then goes on to point out that its being ridiculous is exactly the point of the parable. God’s love for his creatures is so great that it even includes sinners, something the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes had a hard time understanding. The parable goes out of its way to emphasize the divine welcome given by God to the repentant sinner, ridiculous as this might seem to some.
Thank God for his infinite mercy.
Friday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time, Nov. 6
Luke 16: 1-8
Another parable is in the offing in today’s Gospel: The parable of the dishonest steward. Stewards made their living by collecting rent and debts owed to their master. They could charge the debtors interest on what they owed, as much interest as they could get away with, and this money went to them, the stewards. Not a bad job if you didn’t mind getting rich at the expense of others. The steward in the parable realizes this and is shameless in what he will do to keep from being fired. He hopes his cleverness will impress the master to keep him in his hire, but if he is fired at least he has someone to go to for subsistence.
We are sometimes like that steward. Some people would go to great lengths to keep their good job if it were in jeopardy. Jesus wants us to think about how much more effort we should devote to securing our position in the world to come, in his Kingdom. Let’s think for a moment of just how much real effort we put into being a disciple of the Lord. If we discover we are lazy in this regard, what can we do to improve it?
Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time, Nov. 7
Luke 16: 9-15
Today’s Gospel tells us just how little we actually know about our God despite what we find out in the Scriptures. We dare to think that God thinks the same way we do about things. But the Gospel for today tells us that the things we regard as being of the greatest importance amount to absolutely nothing in the sight of God.
This might be a good time to spend a little time in reflection asking ourselves what it is in life that is of the greatest importance to us – and then ask ourselves if these things could possibly really be of importance to Jesus from what we do know in the Gospels. We might just be very surprised at some of the things we consider to be so important.