Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Feast of All Saints

(Feast of All Saints;This homily was given 1 November, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Matthew 5:1-12)

One of my favorite places on earth is the Basilica of St. Peter in the City of Rome. Unlike the Gothic style cathedrals, like Notre Dame in Paris, which seek to draw our attention and our imagination toward the heavens by their tall steeples and stain glass windows high up near the vaulted ceiling, the Basilica of St. Peter’s is early Baroque.

The Baroque style seeks to do the opposite: to draw heaven right down here to earth. As if in imitation of the God who becomes man and walks among us, St. Peter’s gives us a glimpse of heavenly realities right here and now.

When you walk into St. Peter’s, immediately you will find holy water fonts being held up by life-sized angels; they are close enough for you to reach out and touch.

Walking further into the Basilica, exploring the many side altars and the nave of that church, you discover the statues, images and mosaics of the saints. They are almost at eye level, and some are close enough for you to grab hold of their feet.

But more than that, the lives of the saints are physically present. The Basilica is literally founded upon the very remains of St. Peter; the bones of the Fisherman are part of the very foundation. The tombs of John Paul the Great and Blessed John XXIII, as well as many other popes and saints from throughout the centuries, are also a permanent part of that great Basilica.

St. Peter’s reminds us of what we celebrate today as Catholics: the Feast of All Saints. It reminds us that God does not want us to wait until heaven before we experience the change and transformation of our lives and our world that the Scriptures speak of. God wants to bring the power and splendor of heaven right here to this earth. The saints are the ones who allowed Him to do that. Christ constantly challenges us to do the same.

The Gospel for today is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes He delivers for all the people of God. Jesus does not say, “Blessed will be the poor in spirit, some day.” No, He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” right here, right now.

“Blessed are the merciful.” Even now—as they imitate God’s greatest attribute—they are blessed, and in the end they will receive great mercy.

“Blessed are the peace makers.” God is especially impatient to reward those who strive for peace among people and nations. He is determined to bless them now, and already the world recognizes them as “Children of God.”

“Blessed are clean of heart.” They are blessed right here and now, those who seek to be pure and chaste even in the midst of a world and culture that mocks that purity and laughs in the face of the chaste. Blessed indeed, Christ says, are those who seek that virtue. “They shall see the face of God.”

On this feast of All Saints, Christ challenges all of us to walk in the footsteps of the saints, and to live the Beatitudes, not the attitudes of the culture around us.

Do we have the courage to do that? Do we dare to follow the examples of the saints and to give God permission to bring the power and majesty of heaven right down here to this earth, in our families, our schools and workplaces?

If the answer is, “Yes, we do have the courage to seek this grace, this gift,” then perhaps one day there will be a statue, an image, or a mosaic in St. Peter’s Basilica with us on it.

But more importantly, there will be a place for us in heaven, with God and all the angels and saints, for all eternity.


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