Revelations 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery has buried within it soldiers representing all of our Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives that we might enjoy the blessings we have as American citizens. Their commitment and dedication are forever remembered, as well as all of the other little-knowns, the millions of unknowns who likewise sacrificed their lives upon the altar of freedom so that we might enjoy the blessings we have.
Today’s Holy Day, the Feast of All Saints, raises up before our eyes not just the famous canonized saints recognized in the Church’s yearly calendar, but all those other holy ones whose lives were dedicated to God and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. And who are among them? Well, our parents, our grandparents, as well as those members of our families who sacrificed their own comfort and resources in order that we might have our Catholic Faith. They are the nuns and teachers who taught us about Jesus Christ, about the Sacraments and the life of God we receive in Mass and Holy Communion. They are our friends who supported us in our choices to do what is decent, what is good, what is pure, and what is noble and best. They are priests who inspired us, prayed for us, and prayed with us. They are people who lived down the street and dropped everything to come and help us, and to care for us when we were sick, or when we were in trouble.
When we think about holiness, many of us tend to think that only extraordinary people are holy people, those “other people.” Perhaps that’s a way of defending against the idea that God asking us to be holy too. If only a few extraordinary people are saints, we then think we don’t to make the effort, or we can put it off to “later on, some time.” We tell ourselves that maybe some day we’1l think about praying more, going to Mass more often, and later on clean up our act so we can be holier.
Or we think that the holy people are those special ones in monasteries and convents, gliding silently around in cloistered gardens while reading their prayer books, with little birds fluttering around St. Francis of Assisi garden statues with gurgling water tumbling into little pools of water. That, however, is not the way God sees it. Notice that the first reading, the one from the Book of Revelations, tells us that a huge throng, so many they cannot be numbered, all of them clothed in the white robes of sanctity and holding the palm branches of victory in their hands. The saints, you see, are innumerable.
I am suggesting to you that God’s call for holiness is universal. Everyone is called to live in God’s love and make His love real in the lives of those around them. Holiness isn’t something that is distant and far removed from us. Quite the contrary, it is near, and close at hand. For holiness isn’t some strange way of living. However remarkable Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s life was, it was lived in the streets among the teeming populace of Calcutta. It was found in big city living, not in some isolated, out of the way monastery behind protective walls.
Holiness is related to the word wholesomeness. It means living whole lives, lives of integrity and truth, wholesome and integrated lives in which we are close to others while being close with God. It means forgiving others when they injure us; it means not holding grudges against them. To live a life of holiness means that one gives up clinging to one’s prejudices, resentments, and the desire to get even with others. You’ve heard it said: “I don’t get mad — I just get even.” To be holy means that you give up being mad, AND you give up “getting even.”
Holiness means you don’t play mind games with those around you, particularly with the members of your family, especially your mother and your father, your brothers and sisters. Holiness means that you reveal the truth of your self to them, that you don’t hide who you really are and what you are really doing. A holy husband and a holy wife know all that there is to know about each other. You’ll notice, too, that if you’re really in love then you want the one you love to know everything that’s in your mind and in your heart. You want your soul to be completely seen by the one you love, and you want to know all that there is to know about what’s in the mind, in the heart, and in the soul of the one you love. Holiness and complete love are two aspects of the same reality.
And holiness means that you are open and exposed to God. It means that you can listen to what God wants to say to you. God has a Word for you, He has something He wants to say to you. Holiness, living holistically with God means that you give God time in which you ask Him for things that you need, a time in which He can ask you for what He wants of you. Holiness involves what you’re doing right now, namely joining together in Christ’s family of faith to share His loving Presence here in a holistic common union that we share with Christ… our Holy Communion here when you and I, together as His loving friends and faithful disciples, share His sacred Body and His precious Blood.
Holiness also means being filled with God’s sanctifying and Holy Spirit. It means, through private prayer and public prayer together here in worship, being filled and inspired with God’s Holy Spirit so that God’s mind might fill our minds, and His heart might fill our hearts. There’s nothing extraordinary about all of that because Jesus Christ as made it all quite present to us in our ordinary and daily lives. The prayer He taught us asks our Father to give us our daily bread. Well, if He’s going to give it to us daily then He’s going to give it to us in our ordinary, daily and quite normal human lives.
This is All Saints Day, a special day each year when we place in our vision what God has in mind for us and recognize that we are called to be a part of that vast multitude of holy ones whose numbers are so great they cannot be counted. This is Al1 Saints Day, your feast day and mine. And since Mother Teresa of Calcutta has not yet been canonized a saint with her own special saint’s day, it’s her day too. And it’s our day with hers. For Mother Teresa was an ordinary woman who loved extraordinarily well, living among countless millions in one of the most teeming big cities in our world. Her call to holiness is the same call to holiness that God is making to each one of us here, to you and to me.
What remains is for us to break out of our ordinary patterns of living and try something fresh and new. For God has fallen in love with you and me just where we are. All that remains is for us to live lives a little bit closer to each other as well as a little bit closer to Him. Each and every time we do, we grow in holiness and we become a little bit more like what God dreamed we could be when He made us in the first place.
May the love of God fill us with a greater measure of His presence, His power and His Holy Spirit on this All Saints Day… as well as in all the rest of the days of our lives.