All Saints’ Day-2015
Sister Mary Rose McGeady, in her book, Does God Still Love Me?, tells a wonderful story about a colony of mice who made their home at the bottom of a large upright piano. These mice lived in a world of constant music. Music filled all the dark spaces of their existence with lovely melodies and harmonies.
At first, the mice were impressed by the music. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that Someone made the music--Someone though invisible to them, yet close to them. They loved to tell stories about the Great Unseen Piano Player whom they could not see.
Then one day an adventuresome mouse climbed up part of the way in the piano and returned with an elaborate explanation about how the music was made. Wires were the secret--tightly stretched wires of various lengths that vibrated and trembled from time to time. A second mouse ventured forth and came back telling of hammers--many hammers dancing and leaping on the wires.
The mice decided they must revise their old opinions. The theory they developed was complicated, but complete with evidence. In the end, the mice concluded that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world--a world simply of wires and hammers. The story of the Unseen Piano Player was relegated to mere myth . . . But the Unseen Player continued to play nonetheless.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Seeing God and possessing the kingdom of God are main goals of human existence.
The Sermon on the Mount is a summary of all Christian teaching, but the Beatitudes are a summary of the Sermon on the Mount. The Ten Commandments are basic rules of morality, but the Beatitudes are a measure of how far beyond this the Gospel calls us. The morality of the Ten Commandments is a morality that can be measured: it is possible to say exactly where you are with them, ticking the ones you broke and the degree of the breach. Christians may come to believe that they have no sin just because they haven't been in breach of the Commandments. But the morality of the Beatitudes is harder to quantify: how poor in spirit are you? How meek, gentle, merciful…? You can never say “I’ve reached it!” You can never be self-righteous. And you can never even begin to think that you are better than another – because you can't compare.
In celebrating ‘all saints’ today we both acknowledge the many unnamed saints in heaven and also recognize that in baptism we ourselves have been set apart, established as sanctuaries of God’s presence. God invites each of us to grow in this holiness.
What is it then that makes a saint? The Beatitudes may appear to be a sort of practical guide to this holiness. Holiness is a mature friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship so deep and strong that it allows us to experience the joy of eternal life even while still fighting the painful battles of our earthly exile. It is the truly amazing ability to experience deep joy even in the middle of terrible sorrow. This is what Jesus means when he says that those who are poor, in mourning, and persecuted are blessed. Even in modern times this joy amid suffering has constantly characterized mature Christians.
The sacrifices and struggles we go through here on earth to be faithful to Christ and the Church are worth it. All Saints' Day reminds us of something that can get lost in the other saints' days. The most famous saints often led such extraordinary lives that it's hard for us to emulate them. It's easy to honor them, recognizing all that they did for Christ, and all that Christ did for them.
But honoring the saints is not enough. We also need to emulate them. And this is where All Saints' Day comes in. Today we honor all of saintly men and women who have not been canonized by the Church, who are not famous saints, but who have nevertheless followed Christ heroically and taken their place in heaven. These are the saints that lived ordinary lives on the outside, and extraordinary lives on the inside. And God didn't overlook them. And there is no shortage of them. They make up a "great multitude, which no one could count," as St John puts it in the First Reading.
Today's Solemnity assures us that if we live each day as Christ would have us, striving to do God's will with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then our lives, which look so ordinary on the outside, will be truly extraordinary on the inside. And we will be blessed in the eyes of God even though in the sight of the world our life may be a failure. As we commemorate and celebrate the lives of all the saints, let’s recognize our call to sainthood and strive to be holy by living the beatitudes accepting the challenges of our daily lives.