Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints
As some of you know, the year before I entered seminary I undertook a travelling year of discernment, during which time I strove to figure out just what it was the Lord was wanting me to do with my life. And one of the more pivotal moments for me during that year involved an encounter with the many saints of our Church.
It was few months into my year away, and I was at the Cathedral in Los Angeles, California for Sunday Mass. This particular Mass happened to be in Spanish, and as the priest began his passionate Spanish homily, my eyes started wandering a bit. And before long, I was captivated by the remarkable set of large tapestries that hang on the walls of the L.A. Cathedral (some of you may have seen them). They depict a vast collection of well-known saints from different eras of the Church’s history—plus a handful of anonymous saints mixed in—all gazing prayerfully at the altar.
These life-size images vividly portrayed a Church teaching that I had never really thought about before – that at every Mass the entire Church is present, including the saints and angels in heaven. And like the assorted crowd around me in the pews—and like our congregation here this morning—these saints featured a sweeping breadth of nationalities, ages, and walks of life – men and women who had known both great suffering and great joy.
Then it came time for communion. As I stood in line, I was conscious of being surrounded by many brothers and sisters in Christ, both in person and in the spirits of those who had gone before us. And to my surprise, as a soaring Spanish hymn filled the Cathedral, tears came to my eyes. I may have been on the other side of the world, but I felt at home in a most radical way.
At the centre of it all was the Eucharist – the Body of Christ. We were taking part in a sacred meal that transcends time and place – and the saints in heaven—who ran the great race of faith during their time on earth—were right there with us, as they are this morning. We are united with the saints—and with each other—through our union with Christ, in a bond that is deeper than nationality or even family. It is a bond which the world cannot give, and which the world cannot take away.
Now, not only are we to honour the saints and seek their intercession, we are called to be saints. Each one of us.
I’m aware that this might seem like a daunting proposition for some of you. Many believers struggle with lukewarmness in their faith at various times in their life. Many people—even those really striving to be good Catholics—know they aren’t on fire for God as much as they ought to be, or perhaps once were.
I suspect that in many instances, the root of this problem is a temptation that we can all face from time to time – namely, the belief that God is not enough for me. Now, we might never actually say this or even consciously think it, because if we do stop and think about it it’s a difficult idea to justify. How could Almighty God—the creator and sustainer of everything that is—possibly not be enough for me, such that I need other things in my life to take priority over him? Nonetheless, the way we go about our lives may well reveal that such an approach has become our operative belief.
Perhaps deep down we might struggle to trust God, and so on some level we think we know better than God what’s in our best interest. Again, this is a pretty silly idea once we bring it to the surface, but after a bit of suffering in our life it’s the sort of belief that can easily take hold if we allow it to.
So, given all this, if you’re struggling with lukewarmness in your faith life, here’s a suggestion that might be worth trying: allow God to be the most interesting thing in your life. Allow God to be the most interesting thing in your life, and see what happens.
If our love of God is low, it makes sense that other things will seem more interesting to us. And so often we don’t really want to let go of the things that might be getting in the way of us growing closer to God. Assorted comforts, entertainment, indulgent behaviour – sinful and otherwise. We also might resent having to go to Mass, having to pray, having to serve our neighbour, and so forth.
Yet consider how we act with those that we truly love – think of how much care we might put into even small gestures—a surprise gift, perhaps—even if no-one else will ever know about it, even if they serve no “practical” purpose. How often do we behave this way towards God? If a married couple becomes too busy to spend time together, it’s normally the beginning of trouble. And if they don’t have time, they need to make time. It’s the same with us and God.
Allow space in your life, for God to reveal himself as the most interesting thing your life. Make God a priority, and see what happens. There are simple steps we can take – putting aside time to really pray without distractions; having good posture when we pray; striving to be focused and attentive in prayer – the sort of things we would do gladly if we were spending time with someone we were in love with. Well, act as if you were in love with God, and see what happens.
Jesus exhorts us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.” And this is ultimately for our own benefit, because the simple truth is that we will never be happy if we go half-way with God. If we’re one foot in and one foot out, that’s a recipe for misery.
But if we allow God to really be God—and live accordingly—we might just find that striving to please him in our prayer and in our way of life and in our service of others is no longer something we experience as a burden but something we gladly do, because nothing else is really worth it. And it may well be that, by the end of our life, we will have not only allowed God to be the most interesting thing in our life, but—with his grace—he might actually be the true love of our life. And that is a recipe for paradise.
So this morning we thank the Lord for the gift of all his saints—of these precious witnesses to the power of his grace—and we ask that through their intercession we may be able to love God the way that they do, so that at the end of our life we may be welcomed with them into his heavenly kingdom.
All holy men and women – pray for us!