Sunday 1 November 2020
Bible Readings for Mass: I: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Responsorial: Psalm 24; II: I John 3:1-3; Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12a
Once again, as we open our hearts to God’s Word we see a great gift of providence, of God’s graces for the times in which we live. Today is All Saints Day. Monday, of course, is All Souls Day. But in this year of many challenges these Holy Days come on the eve of what is perhaps the most intense and potentially divisive of elections in our country. It is a great grace of God that we have these days to remind us that we are foremost and eternally called and seen by God to be members of Christ’s Kingdom. Our earthly journey has brought us to be a part of this land, this country. The strife, the politics, the politicians are but passing moments. God does not care if we are Republican, Democrat or whatever but growing in His graces. The saints, the souls of God who share our journey all lived and often suffered in times and places of great worldly drama. But they realized they belong, they, and we are called to belong to God.
The ancient church, Catholic, Orthodox has and shares an exquisite and rich history of hagiography, the study of saints. Sadly many of the newer parts of the Christian faith have dismissed this vital grace as being archaic or irrelevant. The word hagiography is rooted in the Greek word, “hagios” which, in the New Testament meant “holy”. The Latin counterpart is the more familiar word “sanctus”. Again the passion of holiness is imbued deeply in the meaning but it grew to embrace the gift of sanctity, or sanctified. This was especially recognized by the New Testament authors as they sought to proclaim the Holy Spirit empowered truth of Christians being set apart by and for God…of BEING and BECOMING saints. Over time images of explicit expressions, dress and behavior were developed to show popular concepts of being holy. While they could express some aspects of this Christian journey those popular piety concepts often overlooked the most basic truth. We are called and set apart by and for our Lord. To be an holy people of God is not something that occurs only and finally in Heaven. Indeed Heaven will bring and be the place of infinite fulfillment of this great vocation. But Scripture, the Tradition of the Church clearly teaches us we are called to be holy, to be saints, to be set apart for God and the Heavenly Kingdom this side of eternity. But what does that mean? How do we be and become the saints we are called to be?
It may help to grow in the truth of sainthood if we look to an old tree. For a tree, such as the oak seen above, or the awesome Redwoods in our own backyard there are two vital necessities…. To be rooted and growing.
To be holy, set apart, sanctified by and for God we must allow the roots of our faith to penetrate deeply the graces of God. Jesus shared more than one lesson about the good soil. We must allow God to prepare and cause the soil of our souls to be deeply tilled and nurtured by the rich, fertile love of God. This will mean we are growing in the truth, the teachings of Jesus, the faith of His Church. But it is not just a matter of academics, of mentally knowing and agreeing with certain teachings. It is about allowing the soil of our soul to be drenched in His holy blood, to share our little sufferings of heart and soul to grow with His. Being deeply rooted in God does not mean we are rooted just in favorite Scripture or traditions, however true they may be. Sadly some become so rooted in the past and their preferred perceptions of Jesus and church they fail to allow the Holy Spirit to bring them to…grow. This peril can impact us with beliefs about faith, liturgy, places and even politics so that if they are challenged we become potentially uprooted. Our place in the Kingdom of God isn’t just about Mass, or where we sit in church, or our favorite Scripture, how prayers are to be said or how others are to vote. It is about being so rooted in Jesus that all these things of varying importance are understood as moments in our eternal journey. And all these things are part of which makes us grow..Heavenward.
The life of a saint is deeply rooted in God’s graces, that the life may then grow, reaching for God, for the heavenly kingdom. Whether one is called to be a priest, a religious, a dad or mom our lives are meant, designed by God, to be times and places of the sanctus, the holy graces. So that whether we are lifting our voices in sacred song or prayer or our children or grandchildren from the scrapped knee it is all meant to be holy. It is a time to grow.
To be holy, to become a saint we must be well-rooted. But we must also allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to direct and form our lives to be and become that soul only we can be. We speak of the need for spiritual formation. The resources and gifts of faith-filled spiritual directors are so important for that formation. But we can never lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit would always be foremost the One in charge of our formation. God brings us to GROW, To DEVELOP, to perhaps lose a weak branch but always to… CHANGE. But these verbs are often difficult. Where is God leading? What is God doing? I was very comfortable where I was…why change? But one of the greatest fruits of the holy is allowing God to change us ever more powerfully into His redeemed daughter or son. As SAINT Paul shared “from glory to glory He changes me”. But as God leads us to be saints, to be holy trees of God we must realize each of us needs be rooted and growing in the place of God’s choosing. Some have lives rooted in glorious rich gentle soil safe from harsh winds. Others may find their lives of intense challenge. But rooted in God, yielding to the wind of the Holy Spirit we will be..become His saints.
Take some time this All Saints Day to reflect upon how the saints of God lived lives deeply rooted in Christ but also lives of great change, of growth, growing in the living Truth of the Holy Spirit. May we always remember we are called to share in the holiest of trees, the tree of life, the Cross.