Fr. Brent homily 11-1-2020

Solemnity of All Saints

St. Anselm Church – Sudbury, MA

November 1, 2020 – 4pm

Readings: Rev.7:2-4,9-14; Ps 24; 1 John 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12a


As the autumn season moves on towards winter, the daylight grows dimmer and shorter, and the weather becomes cooler (even surprising us with pre-Halloween snow!)—these signs remind us that everything we know on earth will in some way come to an end.  What lies beyond? That question is so fundamental to us, just as it’s been to all the generations before. 

So in this season, the Church turns its attention to thoughts of the life beyond.  We read scriptures that speak about the end of the world as we know it, God’s promise and plan of salvation for his people, and we look into our hearts (individual and our collective ‘heart’ as a community) to ask where does our attention lie? Is our attention focused on living in a way that journeys towards our destiny in God, or are we casting our lot only in the present moment and with self-centered concerns

And so today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.  On this feast…

  1. Our eyes are drawn to consider the distant horizon, to strain to see what lies ahead. 
  2. This feast also invites us to look deeply into our memory, to remember the saints of the past—maybe the beautiful saints we have known and loved in our lives, whose example we can imitate. 
  3. And we are challenged in the present: can you or I be a saint too?

1) In the reading we heard from the book of Revelation, John recounts his mystical vision.  As God’s judgment is about to come down to render justice on the earth, an angel comes and marks the foreheads of the just with God’s seal, a sign that they are children of God.  The mark of salvation.  We too receive this mark of salvation on our foreheads, in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and anointing of the sick.  God blesses us and marks us as his beloved children.

Then John sees people coming from every nation, race, people and language, dressed in white, waving palm branches and praising God with joy.  They cry out:  “salvation has come from our God!”  This is their truth, the deepest truth, which they now see and know: God is just, God’s love for them is infinite

Have we not, in these present days, seen salvation from our God?  We are here! Our family at St. Anselm is intact! And we look forward with hope to grow this family – discerning however God wills it.

2) Our psalm (24) proclaims, the people who longed to see God’s face…have had their hopes fulfilled.

Perhaps you have known such people, with great longing to see God?  People who have lived their lives loving others as Christ loved—in a self-sacrificing way.  And if they have now passed from this world to the next, you may well have no doubts that they are there with God in the joyful company of the saints.  Such people are worthy of imitation!  They are the mentors we had, the faithful friend, the loving spouse, the caring parent. 

In this community I think of some of those we have lost recently. Armand, who welcomed all of us so warmly to church in his ministry as a greeter, and served tirelessly on Parish Council. I think of Bob who was enchanted by the art that surrounds us—in the stained glass, the mosaic out in the front, this stunning image of Mary inspired by the book of Revelation – so much so he researched it all and published a book for us to learn from and pray with the sacred art here.  I think of Nancy, ever devoted to this community – serving on so many committees over the years. I will never forget how she would often, at the sign of peace, take one’s hand and say “Peace! I love you!”.  Those were the last words I heard her say before she died.  You too can think of so many of St. Anselm’s saints.

To be a saint to us, these saints of our lives didn’t have to be perfect, did they?  They had their sins, their blind spots, their moments of anger, or whatever it may be.  But probably they had a good dose of humility—if not always, at least when it counted most!  For you know, a saint is nothing other than a sinner loved by God, a sinner who accepts God’s love, seeks forgiveness, and is on a journey to wholeness as a child of God.

3)  That’s the kind of life the first letter of John speaks about: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us, that we may be called his Children”. This is a pure gift, not something we earn. 

  • Just think of our baptism when, just as we heard in the book of Revelation, we too were dressed in white and marked on our foreheads with God’s seal.  Christ claimed us as his own.  We received the promise of a divine inheritance, a heavenly destiny. 
  • John then elaborates on this mystery we’re caught up in: “what we shall be has not yet been revealed, but we do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him”.  So, we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like in the life to come, or even two months from now, but one thing is for sure: as we speak, God is laboring to make us more like Christ, to make us more like himself.

4) Can you and I be saints?  It’s easy to say no, if we think we have to be perfect.  But  that’s not true.  We need only be humble enough to accept that we are sinners whom God loves… and then let that love into all the nooks and crannies of our life. God’s love alone can transform us to being more like Christ in all we are and in all that we do.  The Beatitudes from today’s gospel (Mt 5:1-12) give us an image of what the saintly person is about:

they are lovers of justice and righteousness!

they are lavish with mercy to others!

they are hopeful peacemakers! and

they attempt to do what is good and right,

even when they face insults and persecution.

So the month we start today is a special time to claim our place among the saints!—

  • to claim our heavenly destiny as children of God,
  • to remember fondly the saints of our lives and imitate them, and
  • to humbly let God’s love inside our hearts, to transform all that we are and all that we do.  

And we do not stand alone, but we do it together as the St. Anselm family! We do it also in communion with the saints who have gone before us and intercede for our good!

Friends, this is “the path of life, the assurance of joy in God’s presence, and happiness forever” (Ps 16:11).