Sunday, November 1
Solemnity of All Saints
Matthew 5: 1 – 12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
This Feast of All Saints makes me want to stand up and sing, “O Lord, I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in!” I love that song. If you listen to the song carefully you will notice that the saints go marching in. They don’t have to wait until they get in to be saints… they are saints marching in!!!
But I wonder, is that a shared desire among us? Do we want to be in that number? Do we want to be marching saints, right now, right here in the midst of these chaotic and uncertain times? Do we want to be in that number marching along together?
I always find All Saints Day a strange feast. Where should our focus be? Is it on those who now walk in glory, seeing God face to face? Should we focus on all those named and unnamed saints who touched our lives and the lives of others down through the ages? Should we focus on those countless people who came into our lives and left lasting footprints on our heart? What about the people who played such an important part in our individual and collective lives? Are they the ones who deserve our focus today? –OR—might we shift our focus on this gathering of saints that surround us right here day after day?
We are a group of “all saints” as it were? What might be said of us … this holy, earthly living body of saints? Maybe some descriptors might be: funny, serious, demanding, easy-going, intelligent, eccentric, crazy, sad, muddled, confused, committed, frustrated, broken and whole, challenging and challenged, vulnerable, tender and brave, bumbling and sure-footed, and rarely boring. Look around you. Look at the faces of the saints around you. Don’t you find the diversity and giftedness surrounding you overwhelming?
Yes, the saints who have gone before us can indeed be a great source of strength and encouragement and we do, indeed, need to call upon their intercession for us. However, when I look around this body of earthly living saints I am tremendously encouraged. I see and find a source of hope, challenge and encouragement from them.
Every single one of us is a living saint. Yes, I know I am a sinner but that is not my identity. Acknowledging is not what keeps me going every day. It can excuse a lot of my actions. It can make my commitment to be a living follower of Jesus Christ secondary. Identifying myself as a sinner makes it too much about me. It can put me in the constant stance of trying to earn or always asking for forgiveness. I am more challenged and inspired by identifying myself and others as saints. For me, a saint is not only one who has made it into the heavenly kingdom, but also a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying –right here on this earth, day after day. All who are learning to love God, self and others more deeply, one day at a time. These saints are all around me. Let me tell you about some of the saints in my life.
This summer my freezer went out and I didn’t know it for a couple of days. On a Wednesday morning, I discovered it. I had lost everything in the freezer and I lost the freezer. Rumpke pick up is on Tuesdays. That week temperatures in Gahanna reached over 90 degrees every day. I will spare you the details of what the rubbish barrel looked and smelled like after nearly a week of very hot weather. I felt so bad for the Rumpke man. I watched for him, so that I could go out and apologize for the disgusting mess and smell. I tried to soften the blow with homemade cookies. He told me his name and told me not to worry, that it was his job. When he was leaving, he said –“Have a blessed day.” John has been getting lots of cookies during these crazy times. We were two saints who are sinners who keep on trying- right here on this earth, day after day.
Tam and Don are two friends of mine and also members of our parish. They recently signed up to be part of the Red Cross volunteers who are willing to be deployed to areas experiencing some sort of catastrophe. There are currently 34 active disasters being addressed by Red Cross in the US. I asked them why they signed up, they said “We are both fairly healthy, strong and able. It just seems like the right thing to do now.” Tam and Don, two saints who are sinners who keep on trying – right here on this earth, day after day.
Louise and Bob are grandparents who live in Michigan but their grandchildren are scattered. Each week they use ZOOM to connect with a grandchild. They stay on for about an hour and during that time they may play a game, read a story, do some simple exercise or cook something with that particular grandchild. This is their way of giving mom and dad a break and keeping in touch with their grandchildren. Louise and Bob, two saints who are sinners who keep on trying – right here on earth, day after day.
Every morning at 7:30, Jackie along with her five sisters get on ZOOM to begin their day by praying together. Six strong women from Philly, six saints who are sinners who keep on trying- right here on earth, day after day.
Andrea and Kathy and many others who spent hours and hours planning and working out all the details to ensure that our children would receive their First Holy Communion, Confirmation and soon First Reconciliation in a holy and memorable way. Then there is Jake and his crew who set up a physically safe environment for everyone. Andrea, Kathy and Jake – three saints who are sinners who keep on trying – right here on earth, day after day.
There are so many saints around us – the first responders, and health workers, the protesters seeking justice, law enforcement risking their lives for others, parents and teachers trying to do what is the safest way to continue the children’s education, people living alone and trying to reach out to others, Peter and Susan who deliver meals on wheel, Rich who continues to mentor men released from prison and trying to build a new life, Msgr. Hendricks and Staff trying to “do the right thing” for the parish, those who are trying to figure out how to work from home. They are all saints- sinners who keep on trying right here on earth, day after day. Each of you is a saint who is a sinner who keeps on trying right here day after day.
It matters how you think of yourself. Is being a sinner how you view yourself or how you identify yourself? Or are you a saint who is a sinner who keeps on trying right here day after day. Psychologists tell us that we live out of our self-identify and often live into it as well. Jesus already told us – “you are a beloved child of God” (never identified us as a sinner). I choose to identify myself as a saint who is a sinner who keeps on trying right here on this earth, day after day.
The gospel passage today offers us suggestions for this saintly living. It presents us with the beatitudes (BE-attitudes). They are the attitudes we need for moving along in this life. I would add two — which for me when coupled together, hold the essence of what it means to be a saint who is a sinner who keeps on trying. “How blessed are they who know and acknowledges their need for God” and “How blessed are they who know and accepts God’s need for them.”
That, it seems to me is the heart of the matter on this great feast! A saint is one who knows how much he or she needs God and has come to humbly accept God’s great desire and need for her or him. God is what we, this gathered body of earth-living saints, can hold on to in life. Yes- we need the named and unnamed saints who live in glory, but we also need this body of earth-living saints who have thrown their lot in with each other. We are in that number– we have been counted. We are all engaged in mission together. All saints struggling together to live and understand life in and flowing out of the Gospel. In all humility we acknowledge God’s need for us to be witnesses to God’s love, to be Christ for one another.
We are in that number… we march with the undocumented, we walk with those who suffer from violence and natural disasters. We live on an Earth desperate for healing; we touch and are touched by the lives of the elderly and the young, the homeless, the churched and unchurched. The paths we walk in our lives are vast and various, but we walk together. We are numbered together. Marching alongside each other as companions on this great and glorious journey. Face it and own it we are all saints — sinners who keep on trying- right here on earth, day after day.
—Sister Teresa Tuite, OP