Homily for All Saints Day (31st Sunday in Ordinary Time)
How many of us have either thought or said at one time or another… “that woman or that man is or was a saint!” Why do we think or say that? What makes that particular person so special or ‘saintly.’ Most often, this phrase it is said in a tone of admiration… that a person did great things in life or did little things in special ways or perhaps they didn’t have it easy in life, that their circumstances were not always favourable and yet they persevered in the faith… they were witnesses who never gave up.
From my from my lived life experiences both good and not so good, my studies, my opportunities, I have discovered in my own sacred story that to be a saint is to be a witness to Jesus… the one who showed mercy and compassion. Pope Francis has reminded us over and over, “Jesus is the human face of God’s mercy.” Therefore, in striving to live as Jesus lived, we find the path of holiness.
That is the spirit of today’s readings. In the First Reading from Revelation, John has a vision of heaven: “Standing before the throne of God is the Lamb (Jesus), a great multitude which no one could count from every nation, race, people and tongue, praising God the risen Jesus.” These are the witnesses, the ones who showed mercy and compassion to others.
In the reading from the First Letter of John, stresses the link between God’s love and the quality of our lives: “Beloved, see what love the Father has given us that we may be called daughters and sons of God. Over and over, John tells us that to be a ‘child of God’ is to show mercy and compassion (to love) as God loves, the central command of Jesus’ teaching as we in last week’s gospel.
And finally in the Gospel from Matthew we hear Jesus preach the beatitudes that begin the Sermon on the Mount, a collection of the values and commitments that lead us to saintliness: comfort the poor, for those who mourn, and for the meek; blessing on those committed to mercy, to peacemaking and to justice even at the cost of persecution. This is not ‘pie in the sky’ or an antiquated way that has no more relevance. It’s here and now. 2 Examples: 1. Driving to the office last week, I was struck by what I witnessed. Someone, obviously dressed for work, had stopped and was standing under one of the banners of the veterans (a witness)who gave of their lives for our freedom and liberty… beautifully displayed on our lamp posts. He was praying! What was he praying? I’m not sure but no doubt he was praying words of gratitude and thanksgiving for the commitment that this person made… giving of his own young life. Regardless, someone was remembering this saint who gave his life for others. I thought to myself, someday, will there be banners of medical personnel, teachers, grocery clerks, parents and others on the front lines of this pandemic who continue to serve us? Saints!
- This past week on the local news, we heard that the 21 year old, William Jordan who fatally injured Anthony Dwyer at the boardwalk here in Saint John 2 years ago was acquitted on manslaughter charge. After the verdict, Dwyer’s daughter, gave Jordan a hug, offering mercy and compassion, witnessing to Jesus. She went onto to say, “He’s a young man and I pray that he learns from this and he does great things with his life!” Dwyer’s daughter acted saintly by giving this kid his life back… giving him the opportunity to live a life of mercy and compassion.
My dear friends, each and every one of us is called ‘to be holy as God is holy.’ It begins with the obvious: to be like Christ… to show mercy and compassion to one another. May we be open to the Holy Spirit and be the witness of Jesus Christ to others. And perhaps someday, someone will stand by our grave or under a banner or perhaps share a story with another about how we “we survived the great ordeal…” Or in other words, in our own unique way bore witness to Jesus. No doubt concluding that truly, ‘we were saints…’. Amen.