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Pastor's Letter 20201101 - 1 November 2020 - Our Communion with the Saints

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November 1st, 2020

Feast of All Saints

Today’s Theme:  


“Our Communion with the Saints”

A Message from Father Michael

Scripture Note

In our First Reading, today, we are given a vision of the victorious followers of Christ, rejoicing in His presence in the heavenly Kingdom (Revelation 7:2-14.)  Of particular note is the author’s mention of the number “144,000*,” in reference to those inhabitants of “the New Jerusalem,” who have been marked with the “seal” of God.  Often confusing to some of our separated brethren, modern theologians believe this number to be symbolic (as is much of the language of Revelation,) denoting all the faithful who have attained to salvation.  They are comprised of the entire Church—made up of people from the four points of the compass (vv. 9-12.)  Modern theologians say they make up the new Israel (Galatians 6:17,) that is, all the baptized:  viewed first as those still “engaged in their battle with sin,” and those who have won victory over it. 

We then receive hope from our Second Reading (1 John 3:1-3,) hearing that God has made us His children, destined to one day see Him as He is.  We should live a life that is consistent with this great hope.  

Then, in our Gospel selection (Matthew 5:1-12,) Jesus talks to us about the qualities He wishes to see in His disciples:  The Beatitudes—qualities that are exemplified in the lives of the saints.

*In some post-Reformation scholarship, "144,000" was thought to be the product of the number, 12 X 12 X 1,000, to denote the 12 tribes of Israel.  If so, this would mean heaven is only populated by a group of 144,000 Jewish males...all virgins.  (In subsequent verses, and later in Revelation, it becomes clearer that "all people" would be eligible for salvation.)

Trail Blazers

To visit the great national parks of America is an unforgettable experience, but to personally explore them is better still.  When you do, you will find carefully laid out trails, with lots of markers for hikers and walkers.  In difficult uphill or downhill parts you will find steps cut in the rocks.  In marshy paces you will find stepping-stones on which to safely walk.  And, in dangerous parts you will find warning signs, with the safest routes posted.  Thanks to those well-made and well-worn trails, even amateurs can make their way safely through deep forests and rugged mountain terrain.  If you should travel these trails, you will, no doubt, marvel at the hard work that went into their construction.  One thing becomes abundantly clear:  without these clearly defined “roadmaps” the ordinary hiker would be completely lost.

The saints who we commemorate on this feast have done something similar for us, laying out a path to follow toward salvation.  A great host of them have traveled the way ahead of us, and have shown ordinary human beings what can be achieved by availing ourselves of the grace of God.  In doing so, they have expanded the possibilities of human love and courage. 

Such examples are not confined to the roll of “official” saints.  Even in our own times, all around us, men and women have lived and are living still, whose storied lives guide us on our journey—people for whom the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor, have been internalized to an extraordinary degree.  

We draw encouragement and inspiration from those who have “blazed the trail” for us to follow.  They are examples of determination, dedication and sacrifice.  Some may have gone directly to the goal—think, “martyrs for the faith.”  Others fell, stumbled and blundered before finally “getting it right.”  In doing so, they have made our paths a bit easier.  When we “ordinary people” experience weariness and a sense of failure and futility, it’s as if they are saying, “We are with you!  Don’t give up!”  

There might be, for some, a tendency to put the saints on such an exalted pedestal that we feel justified in excusing ourselves from imitating them.  In this case, devotion to the saints becomes more of a hindrance than help.  The saints serve as “models” for our own behavior, precisely because they were sinners, like we are.  They remind us about the pratfalls of life, while inspiring, guiding and encouraging us, giving us hope.  However, always we hold their memories in reverence, never with worship, which is due to God, alone.

The saints can’t provide us with shortcuts and ways of evading the “hard slog” and the “narrow road,” however.  We must not expect others to do for us what we cannot discipline ourselves to do.  We must “walk our own path;” and make our own journey with the lives of the saints there to help undertake life’s challenges.

Being the “Genuine Article”

Becoming a saint is similar to working a fine piece of rough lumber into a beautiful, useful creation.  Anyone who knows anything about the beauty of wood will attest that tropical wood, such as mahogany, ebony, rosewood and teak should never be painted.  These varieties are beautiful as they appear in their natural state.  Some would even cringe at seeing them painted as a “sin” against nature!  More than that, most would agree that it’s a total waste of time, effort and money, as it’s a vain attempt to improve on natural perfection!  If any treatment is added, it should serve one purpose only:  to bring out the natural beauty of the wood.  

Nevertheless, sometimes we may find them painted, presumably done with the aim of making them more attractive.  Even if this is tastefully and imaginatively done, the finished object comes across as false, or “unreal.”  While it well may be considered “pretty,” by some people, it certainly isn’t “authentic.”  Tropical woods are best left as they are—far more interesting and impressive in their natural state.

There is a tendency to do something similar with saints—to polish their image to such an extent that their humanity disappears; they become unreal and unbelievable.  In considering “sainthood,” one realizes that efforts made to affect a false or artificial self isn’t the course to follow.  The role of spirituality is not to “cover-up”, but to “bring out” what is inside a person.  Grace builds on nature.  It doesn’t destroy it, but develops its fullest essence.  Even the lesser-known saints, some of our own acquaintance, perhaps, cause the vision of a higher and a purer life to rise before us.  They inspire us to win back our finer, kinder and healthier selves, thus expanding the possibilities of human love.

Piety is no substitute for “goodness.”  While goodness can exist without holiness, the converse is surely impossible.  Since we are made in the image of God, everyone has the capacity for goodness.  That is the real goal in life—to strive to be “good.”  When we achieve that state, happiness is bound to follow.  Some good people ache with sadness for having left undone something they deem as critical in their lives.  This is how we might feel sometimes—experiencing the sadness of not being saints….  We should take heart in knowing that our lives will be just as long as they need to be, from God’s point of view.  When we do that, we will focus on being the best person possible, everyday we live.  That is the road to sainthood.


Saints are like windows.

Through them the light of God’s wisdom streams into the world,

Banishing the darkness and brightening the road for uncertain travelers.

Through them the warmth of God’s love radiates through the world,

Banishing the coldness and warming the hearts of even the most forlorn of His creatures.

And through them we catch a glimpse of another world,

A world that lies not just beyond the walls of our earthly home,

But even beyond the stars.


May God Richly Bless You!

If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you,

 And that He certainly intends to make you a saint. ~~Ignatius of Loyola

To Listen to a live stream of today's Liturgy of the Word, click here: https://youtu.be/68TTsEurw-M


Find Us Faithful.docx

Find Us Faithful.mp3


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