“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
About four years ago, I made a conscience effort at the end of confessions to encourage the penitents to grow in holiness. When you think of it, that is why we go to confession. We go because we are not living out our baptismal call to be holy. And so today as we celebrate All Saints Day, we are reminded that our goal as Christians, as human beings, should be nothing more and nothing less than to quite simply be saints. Impossible? Who says? Christ reassured us in the gospel a few weeks ago that nothing is impossible for God. Our world needs saints and needs them now. We, as God’s holy people, are called to look upon those who have gone before us as inspiration of how to live a holy life.
I look upon the children here this morning who are dressed up as saints and I think about the heroic lives they lived which should be something that our children strive for every single day. These children have dreams, big dreams, of doing great things. The worse thing you could tell a child is that something is impossible or out of their reach. So we want to start teaching them now in our school and CCD program that sainthood is what we all aspire to because we want to be with God. Today we don’t simply honor the saints because as St. Bernard once pointed out in a homily, “What do [the saints] care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of their son?...Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself.” Today we look to their examples so that we may one day join them in heaven.
So how do we become saints and achieve this impossible task? Well, Jesus leaves us a roadmap if you will, a guide to holiness of life in today’s gospel in the Beatitudes. I just want to focus on a few of the Beatitudes because they are traits that we need to cling to as Christians striving for sainthood.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Another translation in the Bible for righteousness is justice. We all long for justice. In this country, we pledge in the Pledge of Allegiance “and justice for all.” The saints are those who worked for justice tirelessly, who took care of the poor, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, gave shelter to the homeless, and worked to correcting many of societies injustices. These are traits that should spur us to action when we come across any type of injustice.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
The saints showed tremendous mercy. Here in the first row, one of our little girls is dressed like St. Fautina who taught us about the Divine Mercy of Jesus. We need to be merciful in a world that has little patience for tolerance for mercy. We cannot be vengeful or spiteful; we must always be projecting the mercy and love of God. How can we not forgive when our Heavenly Father forgives us constantly?
Blessed are the clean of heart for they will see God.
As I look upon these children, I ponder all the impurities that you as their parents have to shield them from. Children have that saintly innocence that the world is constantly trying to rob them of. There is no parental control big enough to keep this purity that they now possess, but that should not prevent us from working tirelessly to protect our children from the evils of this world. And we as adults, when we allow our hearts to get cluttered by impurities, we lose sight of God in our lives. Many of the saints recognized their sinfulness, and worked through those sins, confessed them, in order to see God better and discern his will in their lives. We must always work to see beyond worldly evils and focus only on the face of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Among the little saints in front of me, I see three martyrs: St. Lucy, St. Agnes, and St. Cecilia. Three young girls who loved God so much that nothing on this earth could tear them away from their Lord and because of this love they suffered martyrdom. Many of these early Christian martyrs practiced their faith knowing full well that it could cost them their lives. Jesus warned his disciples in the gospels that they would be persecuted for following him. Unfortunately, 2000 years later, this persecution has not stopped. This is where we must remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria and the Middle East who are persecuted for their faith. They went to Mass this morning to celebrate All Saints Day just like us, but they went not knowing what would happen on their way to church or on the way back or what would happen in the church. They went in the face of persecution because like those early Christian martyrs, their love for God is so strong that nothing and no one on this earth could tear them away from the love of Christ that is bestowed upon us in the Eucharistic celebration. These brothers and sisters that suffer religious persecution are daily modern reminders to us that we need saints in our world. We need men and women and children to rise up to demonstrate to the world that holiness is possible. Because if we are not striving every single day to be saints, then what is the point of calling ourselves Christians?