Homily for November 1

Communion of Saints by Ira Thomas. (Click for larger view)

Homily for All Saints Day
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

All Saints Day!

I’d like to ask all the saints who are with us today to please stand
so that we can recognize their holiness
but the only ones who might stand might be
the ushers, late-comers and folks who never take a seat at Mass!

In the early church, the word “saint” was used to speak of anyone
who followed Jesus and lived a life in accord with his teaching.
St. Paul  often addressed his letters this way, for example:
 “Greetings to ‘all the saints’  in Ephesus,  in Corinth…”
He had in mind here all the believers – not just holiest ones.

Over centuries, the meaning of the word became much narrower.
But it its original sense, I am, at this moment,
preaching “to the saints in Holy Family Parish.”

Of course your first reaction to that might be,
“Oh, I’m no saint, Father!”
And that would be entirely appropriate
because one characteristic of saints is their recognizing
that they are not perfect and are always in need of God’s mercy.
Even those individuals who are canonized as saints by the church,
they knew their sins – they asked for forgiveness of their sins –
as they struggled to follow Jesus and live by his word.

So, a certain humble acknowledgement
of how we fail in Christian living
is the first step towards  - sainthood.

Sainthood begins with a very basic awareness
that I am in a relationship with God.
And even if I think my relationship with God is pretty weak
it’s good to remember that God
is always giving his all to his relationship with me:
whether I know it, or acknowledge it, or accept it or not,
God is in a relationship with me.

This relationship and my awareness of it
are like putting on sun glasses on a bright summer’s day:
glasses color everything I see,
cast the world around me in a different light
and, if they’re polarized sunglasses,
they make everything I see sharper and clearer.

That’s what it is to have an awareness of my relationship with God:
to see life through the lens of my relationship with God.
Sin is what happens when I take off the glasses of grace
and rely only on my own view, my own vision.

Being a saint is being aware that I’m in a relationship with God
and that God has expectations of me.
Being a saint is being aware:
that the world I live in belongs to God, not to me;
that God lives in the world in the lives of my neighbors;
that my life is a gift on loan from God – I do not own it;
and that I never act in isolation:
that everything I think and say and do,
affects my relationship with my neighbor and with my God.

Being a saint means paying attention to God in my life, day by day.

• You're a saint when you pay attention to God's presence    
in your own heart and in the lives of others...

• You're a saint when you pay attention to your own faults
and forgive those who've hurt you...

• You're a saint when you pay attention with all you have:
with all your heart, your mind and your soul…

• You're a saint when you pay attention to loving your neighbor
at home, at school, at work and in the neighborhood...

• You're a saint when you pay attention to the needs of other people  
down the street, across town and around the world...

• You're a saint when you pay attention to being 
honest and faithful, fair and just, trustworthy and pure...

• You're a saint when you pay attention to the consequences of
your habits, choices, decisions, spending and politics...

• You're a saint when you pay attention to the needs of others
before taking care of yourself...

• You're a saint when you know the difference between  
paying attention - and not paying attention...

• You're a saint when you pay attention
even when no one else does...

Today is the feast of All Saints, the day when the church honors
all the saints in heaven who don’t have churches named after them.
These are our brothers and sisters, sinners like us all,
who asked for God’s pardon,
who “paid attention” to what’s really important in life
and who grew in their relationship with the Lord.

Even as we are gathered around the Lord’s Table here today,
so are all the saints gathered in the everlasting banquet
of heaven’s peace and joy.

And I trust that each of us hopes, one day,
to have a seat one day at the Lord’s Table in heaven:
a seat with all the saints.

Let’s pray together, then, for God’s Holy Spirit
to help each one of us pay attention
– and to be a saint, today.


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