So this is one of the high water marks of the Church's liturgical year. The feast of all the saints is where we get to pay homage and respect to everyone who has completed the journey, to everyone who has finished the race. We get to turn to all of them, and ask for their help. Every time we pray the Creed we proclaim our belief in the Communion of Saints, so let's make sure we have a good understanding of what that means.
When a person lives a virtuous life that would be we would all do well to imitate, and they end up having a following either in life or in death, then the Church conducts an investigation into that person's life and eventually declares that person a Saint. With this we're talking about those names we know like St. Padre Pio, St. John Paul II, or St. Therese of Lisieux. Declaring a person a saint is a statement of affirmation on the Church's part that we're sure this person is already in heaven and so is in a position to intercede for us. This declaration, what we call canonization or raising to the altars, doesn't send this person to heaven or do a darn thing for them, because they're already in the presence of God Himself, so nothing we say or do for them improves their position at all. Rather, the Church makes this proclamation for our sake, for those of us still working our way to heaven, to serve as examples and sources of help on our way.
Now, Jesus told us to enter through the narrow gate, because the gate that leads to destruction is wide and those who enter through it are many (Matt 7:13). So when we celebrate the feast of all the saints, we commemorate and honor this great band of misfits and weirdos who didn't do what the popular thing. We celebrate those who didn't go along with the crowds, those who didn't do what was popular. We celebrate those who did what Jesus said to do in today's gospel. We celebrate those who wept while the world rejoiced, those who were hungry while the world was full, those who were merciful when the world was cold and heartless. We celebrate them because now they're receiving their reward.
So it's vitally important that we enlist the help of the saints in our fight against sin and in our journey to heaven, because it is possible to miss the mark. It is possible to end up in hell. Hell is not so much a punishment inflicted by God but rather the natural consequence of my own free choices against God and his goodness. Jesus tells us that wide is this path and that many choose it. So our job in this Christian life is to be a weirdo. Be a misfit. Our job is to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be clean of heart. Today Jesus gives us the instruction manual for getting to heaven. But this is not how the world lives. The world does not live according the values of the Beatitudes. And this is not a criticism of the modern world because at no time in history, ever since Adam's original sin, has the world lived according to the Beatitudes. They don't make you rich, they don't make you happy, and they don't make you successful, at least as far as the world measures wealth, happiness, and success. But they set you on a trajectory to realize true wealth, true happiness, and true success in the kingdom where they actually exist.
|Louis and Zelie, just your normal everyday heroes|
So your job today and every day is to take the saints as your standard and say, "How am I doing?" Your job is to be a misfit in this world, your job is to not be one of the crowd on the wide road to hell. So if you look around you and you look at yourself, and you don't see a whole lot of difference between you and the world, it's time to get to work. Pick the sin in your life that most drastically affects your relationship with God, and then figure out a game plan for what you're going to do about it. Don't settle for, "Well, I try to be a good person." Be specific. Pick a sin you need to eradicate, and pick the opposing virtue you need to grow in. Figure out how you're going to do it. Are you going to say a particular prayer every time you commit this sin? Perhaps take on a penance every time you commit the sin? Or is the sin you need to work on really serious? Do you need to confide in a trusted friend and ask them to hold you accountable for virtue in this area? Pick the sin you need to work on, and come up with a plan of action. When you come up with a plan of action, enlist a particular saint to help you, especially one who has struggled with that same sin. Also make sure that plan of action involves Confession because you can only grow closer to God by the methods he has made available to you. By patiently but deliberately working on the particular sins in our lives, each of us can truly practice heroic virtue. We ask the saints to help us in this. We entrust ourselves to their intercession and to the mercy of God as we all seek one day to join the communion of saints.