All Saints Day 2020

Nearly a month ago, I began a series of homilies on why we should practice our faith. In the first homily I set out to show that science and reason verify for us that God really does exist, next, using history, I attempted to show that if we believe that God is real and we believe in Jesus Christ then religion is necessary for us in this life, and lastly two weeks ago, I asked each of us to consider why we are Catholic. Last Sunday then, having considered why we are Catholic, the Gospel showed us how to live out our Catholic faith by giving us the two great commandments; Love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. While all of this is good and hopefully was helpful for you on your faith journey, that whole series begs a simpler and more basic question; namely, what then is the meaning of life.

It’s a question that philosophers have pondered for thousands of years, a question that is at the core of who we are. I think everyone at some point has to step back and ask why am I here and what is the purpose of my time on this earth. This deep question pulls us out of our present moment and forces us to ponder the future. Yet very few of us ever take the time to do it because if your life is anything like mine, our lives are extremely busy, that we just move from one thing to the next to the next and we never stop to look at the big picture; where am I going, why am I doing what I’m doing. Yet, if we don’t stop for a moment and ponder the future, we will never get to where we want to go. Just think about it for a moment, if you are going to run a race don’t you think you better know where the finish line is and if you are going to build a bench don’t you think you better know what the bench looks like before you start to build it? Why should it be any different with our lives?

To answer that question, we have to go back to the very beginning; we have to go back to the moment of our baptism. As we are reminded in today’s second reading, we are claimed by God and we are sons and daughters of God. God has adopted us and He has set on a path towards sainthood. The whole purpose of our life is to become a saint, which is to say to live with God for eternity. Often though when we hear this call to sainthood, we get one of two thoughts. On the one extreme we say that we are already there. We say that God has already chosen us so we will spend eternity with Him forever in heaven. The problem with that position is open up your eyes and see all the evil in the world, we can’t actually believe that. I’m afraid for Catholics, though sometimes we go to the other extreme. When we hear of saints, we think of the great martyrs who died as a witness to the faith, or men and women who performed miracles or lived the beatitudes we heard in today’s reading to the extreme and we easily think that there is no way that we can become a saint. I think all of us would agree that sainthood is a noble ambition, but I think many of us must honestly ask ourselves if it is something that we can realistically attain.

Well the answer is yes! God is not going to set us on a path that we cannot reach. There is no reason why each and every one of us here, with some hard work, and with cooperating with God’s grace cannot become saints. While all of the saints, those we that have been canonized by the Church and those countless unknown souls who now live with God forever in heaven, are the real life super heroes, they were all human like you and I. They had their strengths and weakness, they were all sinners, but all of them at one point in their life came to realize the purpose of life was to become a saint and they strove to achieve sainthood with their whole being. Even with all of their faults and failings they kept their eyes focused on being a saint and they never gave up. After all “our first step to sanctity is realizing that nothing in life is worth so much as our becoming saints.”[1]

Becoming a saint doesn’t mean that we have to shut ourselves off in a monastery for the rest of our lives or necessarily live as a priest or religious sister. No, God made each and every one of us good and with the intention that we become saints. To become a saint all we have to do is become who God intends us to be, that is to say to become the best version of ourselves. You and I already have the potential to be saints, but we must live that call to be blessed by following the blueprint God Himself has laid out for us in the beatitudes that we just heard in the Gospel. If you want to know the path to sainthood, open up today’s Gospel to the beatitudes and replace the word blessed with the words a saint is and you immediately see the path towards holiness.

If we think that the saints were perfect people who had everything together, then perhaps we need to be reminded of our history. The history of the saints is one of great sinners who came to recognize their call to sainthood. It is a history of saints who clung to the Church, not because they had everything figured out, but because they knew they needed to be saved, after all as the popular phrase reminds us “the Church is not a museum for saints, but rather a field hospital for sinners.” St. Peter denied Jesus and went on to become the first pope, St. Augustine had a child out of wedlock and believed in a weird heretical sect that believed in a cosmic battle between good and evil before eventually becoming one of the greatest teachers of the Catholic Faith. St. Vladimir, living around the year 1,000 had indulged in human sacrifice early in his life, and I could go on for hours naming sinners who became saints.

Friends the saints are closer to us than we may realize. They have struggled with sin and temptation, they’ve walked the journey toward holiness, sometimes stumbling, but always getting back up and moving on, resolving to do better, to be better version of themselves. All of us have our weaknesses and struggles but the saints remind us that we are called to conversion to work with God’s grace to become the best version of ourselves.

The saints were born human just like every other person to walk this earth. They were raised to sainthood because they worked to be what today’s gospel reading is calling us to be: to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to be merciful, to make peace, for this is how we begin to become what Jesus called “blessed,” and what the Church calls saints. God calls all people to become saints, He calls you to sainthood. Today He challenges you to continue down that lifelong path of sainthood remembering “there is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.”[2]

[1] Albert Joseph Mary Shamon. Three Steps to Sanctity. Oak Lawn: CMJ Marian Publishers and Distributers (1993) pg. 1

[2] Attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo

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