Feast of All Saints (B); November 1, 2015
Rev 7:2-4,9-14 Ps 24 1 Jn 3:1-3 Mt 5:1-12
Deacon Jim McFadden; Folsom Prison
French theologian Leon Bloy once wrote “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in a life is not to become a saint.” Brothers, on the Solemnity of All Saints, I ask you, “Do you want to become a saint?”
I sense a reluctance; it’s not as if I’m asking that you want to become a “goody two shoes.” Let’s get to basics: what is a saint?
To begin with, a saint is one who is a friend of God. Who wouldn’t want to be a friend of God who is all good, all loving, and all beautiful? God is a friend who will never bail on us, whose love is constant and unconditioned, and so deep that the Father’s only begotten Son gave his life so that you may have life eternally.
A saint is one who is living a virtuous life; that is, they’re living according to the Father’s will which, is to say, they are atuned to what is really Real. Saints live a holy life. Some may balk at this. Those who worked with Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, in her ministry to the poor felt that someday she might be canonized a saint, a movement that the Archdiocese of New York is promoting. She said that she hoped she never would be, because that would set her apart from just being an ordinary person living out the Gospel, which is the serious business of all Christians. I think Dorothy Day got this one wrong because sanctity is lived in our ordinary experience, which means that you and I have the potential to become holy in our here and now circumstances. Becoming holy doesn’t stifle who you are; just the opposite, the full flowering of your personality bursts forth as you become the best version of yourself, which is your True Self made in the Image of God. Many people believe that to be holy is to be stifled, less free, less themselves.
That is so far from the truth. God is love and all that he wants for you is your good. Can you trust that? All he wants is your joy to be full and for that to happened we sanctify our lives by offering everything we say and do to our loving Father.
This desire is planted in your heart. As the Psalmist writes, God desires to give you the “desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). What he is commanding you to do is be holy, which means you live according to his will, which is the only sane way to live since God is Life itself.
To be a saint is simply to be happy. As French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” The reason that we’re not happy, not joyful, not a saint is that we settle for so much less. C.S. Lewis understood this well when he wrote, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Why do we settle for half-hearted desires? Why are we o.k. being a mediocre human being which is just the opposite of being a saint. I think that if we desire something, that desire must be good. Not quite: while some desires are good—the desire to be a saint, the desire to will the good of the other, the desire to do God’s will—there are some desires that are simply disordered and are not good for us. While we never will evil, which can never be desirable, we can desire something sinful because it appears to be good. The trouble is we seek happiness outside of our relationship with God and anything desired outside of that relationship is just out of whack. But it is important to realize that which we seek in sin we find in God. How does that work? St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote: “No evil can be desireable, either by natural appetite or by conscience will. It is sought, indirectly, namely because it is the consequence of some good.” Or, as G.K. Chesterton once said, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”
Brothers, becoming a saint, of having your potential realized, is not a pipe-dream. With God’s grace, it is attainable. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right.” If you think you can become a saint through the grace of God, then you will. As Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft once wrote:
“You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you. It is your free choice. Here is one of the truest and most terrifying sentences I have ever read (from William Law’s Serious Call): “If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be.” That insight is terrifying because it is an indictment. But, it is also thrillingly hopeful because it is an offer, an open door. Each of us can become a saint. We really can.”
On the Solemnity of All Saints, we are being challenged to join the Communion of Saints. “BE A SAINT! WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?”