The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Go to heaven!

"To become saints means to fulfill completely
what we already are, raised to the dignity
of God's adopted children in Christ Jesus."
Pope Benedict XVI

NOTE: Moses, prefiguring Christ, brought the Law down the mountain to the people. Jesus, as we hear in today's Gospel, delivers the Beatitudes--the higher law of the Kingdom of Heaven--to his disciples who come up the mountain with him. With, in, and through Christ, we are all called to climb the mountain of holiness--to become saints. Long before any of the saints in heaven were canonized, they lived and suffered on this earth just like the rest of us--even with their own personal imperfections. It is the light of Christ that shines out through the faces of his saints. It is Christ who bestows blessedness, makes us holy. Each and every one of us is called to be a saint. But we have to be willing to climb the mountain, to go to heaven. And the journey begins right here on Earth. Our own Fr. Meinrad Brune, O.S.B. (the director of oblates here at Saint Meinrad Archabbey) has more to say on the subject. Posted below is his homily this morning for the Solemnity of All Saints. -- Br. Francis 

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
Solemnity of All Saints
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
1John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12a
“Go to heaven!”
Has anybody ever said that to you? We have all been told to go to hell often enough—and probably directed others to do the same. When people want to wish someone else the best, or have been especially pleased by what another person has done for them, why don’t they send that person off to heaven with just as much feeling as when they consign someone to the fiery pit?
Today we celebrate the saints in heaven but also the saints on Earth. Have we ever thought that All Saints Day was our day, too? Have we not entirely the wrong image of a heaven that is without the effort, struggle, and achievement of Earth?
All Saints Day does more than honor those whom we know as saints. It offers hope and consolation to all who doubt their potential for goodness. It reminds us that not every saint was an un-bathed old man living in a desert cave, or an innocent young girl martyred for her virtue. Today is the feast of our parents, husbands, wives, our brothers and sisters, some of our best friends, the monks we live with day after day after day. It is the feast of those who believed our God, who struggled and sometimes failed, who tried to be faithful.
One of our problems with saints is that we have thought of them as perfect, and therefore have thought of sainthood as unattainable. The opposite is true: no saint is perfect, and sanctity is attainable. The healthiest and holiest of the saints were those who knew their limitations and imperfections, but who went beyond them and found salvation through them: Thomas, who doubted; Peter, who denied; the woman in the Gospel, who prostituted; Jerome, who raged; Augustine, who lusted; Matthew, who hoarded; Paul, who oppressed. St. Bernard, the Cistercian monk, once wrote to a newly appointed bishop: “The bishop’s throne for which you, my dear friend, were lately chosen, demands many virtues, none of which, I am sorry to say, could be discerned in you, at any rate, in any strength before you became bishop.” But all these people went beyond their sins.
All Saints Day is a reminder that we become what we choose to be. We are all invited to sainthood, but we must pursue it. Our faith has both the saints and the sinners, because we understand that even the sinners are saints. There is no one among us so good that he or she does not have to work out his or her salvation, and there is no one of us so bad (try as we might, most of us turn out to be not all that bad) that God does not love us. The feast of all the saints means that no matter how bad we are (and most of us are not as bad as we sometimes like to think we are), all that is required to be a full-fledged member of the community of saints is a turning around and accepting God’s love for us.
On this feast we celebrate the fact that God loves everyone—the special and the not-so-special, the extraordinary and the ordinary. The feast is, in some ways, a celebration of “the ordinary”—a celebration of the power of our extraordinary God to work through ordinary people in ways that make a difference.
In our Gospel this morning the point of the Sermon on the Mount is that in the kingdom of God, men and women who have accepted the gift of faith are able to live according to the Beatitudes not so much as a means of meriting God’s love but as a means of manifesting the presence of God’s love in them.
The Sermon on the Mount is not a presentation of a moral code; rather these thoughts symbolize the presence of the kingdom. The principal characteristic of those “happy,” “blessed,” “celebrated” people is their powerful trust in God. The poor in spirit, the lowly, those who hunger, the peace-makers have all committed themselves to the message that Jesus has brought. They have accepted the great gift of God’s love and are able to live with courage, confidence, and trust in the power of that love.
The first and second readings of this Mass confirm the Beatitudes. The book of Revelation is written to encourage people in time of trouble and persecution and to guarantee that we, the people of God, will triumph no matter what difficulties stand in the way, no matter what obstacles must be overcome.
John’s letter was written to refute those who denied the humanity of Jesus, thus isolating Jesus completely from his followers. The author of the letter responds strongly by reaffirming the humanity of Jesus and our unity with him, both now and in splendid fulfillment in the future when “we will be like him.”
The tradition of canonizing saints has a long history, but it is rooted in the experience of people who recognized “saints” in their midst. Maybe today is a day when we make time to reflect, when we make our own little canon of saints—people who have in a special way made the love of God real in our world, in our own lives. Such people are often hidden in our past as well as in our present—among the cranky and the gentle, the forgotten and the unforgettable, the joyful and sad. And if we look closely enough, they might even appear in an occasional glance in the mirror!
In this Eucharist, God the Holy One comes to us, offering us all his love and life. Jesus gathers us together into his Holy Body. His Spirit fills us with love and life as we receive the very Body and Blood of Jesus. We are sent forth to be saints—in everyday clothes.
On the feast of All Saints, God is saying, in effect: “Hey, you are a saint! How about trying to act like one?
Go to heaven!
-- Fr. Meinrad Brune, O.S.B.

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