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Are you a Saint?

November 1, 2020

A reflection for the Solemnity of All Saints, Year A. The readings are Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14, Psalm 48, 1 John 3:1-3 and Matthew 5:1-12a.

Section of the the Communion of Saints mural at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles. Do you recognize any of them?

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints – a feast that maybe most of you don’t usually celebrate with a Mass because it’s always on Nov 1st, and many of you don’t go to daily Mass. But this year it falls on a Sunday, so we get to celebrate it all together with a Sunday Mass. And it’s a great day for me to ask you a question I’ve asked you many times before: Do you think you are going to be a saint? At this point, most people look the other way and hope I go away. We don’t think we are “saint” material. We don’t think we are worthy to be saints. But what is a definition of a saint? The saints are people who are in Heaven. Simple.

I don’t mean canonized Saints. Those are the people that the Church has officially recognized as Saints for their heroic lives. The Church declares them as Saints because we know with certainty that they are in Heaven and because their lives are good models for us. But what about all the other people who are in Heaven who have not been canonized? Your grandmother or great uncle? That nice old neighbour you had growing up? There are so many people that, I am sure, are in Heaven, but the Church is never going to recognize them as saints – still, they are saints because they are in Heaven. So, if you plan on going to Heaven – and that should be your plan – then your plan is to be a saint.

Scripture tells us that they are a lot of them. The Church has canonized some 10,000 Saints, but the first reading today says that it’s a multitude that could not be counted, from every nation, race, people and language. The canonized saints are a good representation of that: there are saints from every continent, from every century, from every country, every race – there are African saints, Latin American saints, Asian saints, Indigenous saints, saints who were priests and nuns and brothers, but also saints who were lay people, married people, saints who were children… that’s because everyone can be a saint. In fact, the Second Vatican Council tells us that there is a universal call to holiness. That means that we are all called to be holy; to be saints. I think it’s because we are all created to be saints. And it’s great to know that there are a lot of people in Heaven already and there’s a lot of room for more.

I’d like to give you two examples:

Yesterday, October 31, 2020, was the Beatification of Fr. Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus. He was beatified. That’s the last step before canonization. So, yesterday, the Church declared him “blessed.” What did McGivney do? Yes, he was a priest, and yes, he is the founder of the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world – but what did he really do? He wanted to take care of the orphans and widows of Irish immigrants who died. There was no one to take care of them; their wives could not work – so he started, what is in reality, an insurance company. He didn’t do much more than that. He died at the age of 38. What did he do? He did what he could to take care of widows and orphans – who were the needy people in his community at the time. And now he is blessed.

A month ago, on October 10, there was another beatification. This one was for a 15 year old Italian young man, Carlo Acutis. What did he do other than being a normal 15 year old? He liked playing with computers. His friends described him as a computer geek. He had a love for and deep interest in the Eucharist and so he created a website cataloguing all the Eucharistic miracles around the world. He was 11 years old when he started. He finished when he was 14. A year later, in 2006, he died of Leukemia. What did he do? He did what he could to share something that was important to him. And now he is blessed.

Fr. McGivney and Carlo Acutis could not be more different from each other. One was a priest; the other a teen-ager. One lived 100 years ago; the other died 15 years ago. You can see that if you look at the list of saints. They were all different. All of you can find a saint that is like you (in fact, that can be your homework. Find a saint that you did not know that is just like you): a parent, divorced, an orphan, a refugee or immigrant, a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a lawyer, a child, someone who was very successful in business, someone who had a lot of money, who loved to travel, someone who was unemployed or struggled with their finances or had legal issues; someone who struggled with alcoholism; someone who’s had an abortion, someone with cancer… Up in Heaven, there are saints who had your same interests, desires, passions, struggles, quirks and yes, even sins.

But, even if there is great diversity among the saints, I think that there are some things that all the saints – canonized or not – had in common. And we get that today in the readings.

The first is mentioned in the second reading from the First Letter of John. St. John says that we are children of God. That is the first quality of a saint. If you want to be a saint, you have to start by seeing yourself as a child of God – as part of the family of God. How different would your words and actions be if you always saw yourself as a child of God and if you saw everyone else as a child of God?

Second – it’s mentioned in the Psalm today: “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord and stand in his holy place? Those who long to see the face of God.” Do you long to see the face of God? Do you want to be with God in Heaven? If you want to be a saint, you have to seek the face of God.

Then we have the eight Beatitudes that Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel. You want to be blessed? Well Jesus tells us who are blessed:

The poor in spirit: Are you poor in spirit? Are you humble?

Those who mourn: Why those who mourn? I think it’s because they see the sadness and suffering around them and they have compassion. Do you mourn for your brothers and sisters? If everyone would mourn when they see the suffering of those around them, I think we would live in a very different world.

Blessed are the meek. Are you meek? Are you quiet and gentle? Are you patient? All those are qualities of those who are meek.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do you hunger for justice and for what is right?

Are you merciful?

Are you clean of heart? Are you pure of heart? Are your intentions pure?

Are you a peacemaker?

And the last one – we know many saints suffered this one: blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness – persecuted for the sake of Jesus.

They are blessed.

Actually, there is one more quality of those who are blessed: The Gospel tells us that they “rejoice and are glad”. Do you rejoice and are you glad or do you walk around with a sour face? The saints were full of joy because they felt the Grace of God working through them and bringing hope to others. Do you rejoice and live with gladness? Your reward will be great in Heaven.

I think most of us (if not all of us) are already living the Beatitudes and we are full of joy and see ourselves as children of God and we seek to see the face of God. So, let me ask you again: Do you think you’re going to be a saint? Do you want to be a saint? Do you want to go to Heaven?

If we live like children of God, long to see the face of God, live the beatitudes and if we are a people who rejoice and are glad, then I don’t think it really matters what else you do, whether you take care of widows and orphans or whether you are a computer geek, you will be  a saint and you will get to Heaven.

I hope to see you there!

From → English, Reflections

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