Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Communion of Saints

Feast of All Saints (1 Nov)

The term Communion of Saints can give misleading impressions, or even leave the reader drawing a blank. It's really not meant to be that complicated or obscure though. Today is the Feast of All Saints, those recognized and canonized (the ones with "St." in front of their name), and those unknown and unhailed (maybe like your grandma). Today seems like an according good day to reflect on what it is that we Christians are all called to be.

Communion is an intimate sharing, to the point of oneness (unio, in Latin). What is shared? Lots of things: your stuff, your time, your hopes and fears, maybe your time and place, even yourself, your heart, your life. What kind of sharing is it? It isn't contractual sharing, where one party gives such-and-such in return for a return from the other. That's business, not communion. In communion, each party gives of himself without waiting to see whether the other makes an adequate return. In communion, each party has to make a sort of leap of faith - giving even his own self, without knowing if the other will even care. The communion happens when the return is made, and both parties are sharing - but if each party waits for the other, it never happens, and if either party only makes the gift looking for something in return, then it's only business. There might be bumps in the road. Bumps occur when one party forgets to keep giving, or starts looking for something more in return. The miracle is that as long as the one who begins to falter turns back to the right way of sharing, the communion can actually become stronger because of such trials. More sharing of more important things with less demanded in return means more communion.

Communion is the sort of life that God has. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each sharing their whole self with the others, without waiting or wanting anything in return. This sort of love is what fills in the communion shared by the saints, but it doesn't come from them. In fact, when the saints start loving each other, they are usually very bad at it. Mother Teresa wasn't born with that name, nor with that degree of holiness, of godliness. She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in a backwoods area of Albania, and was probably pretty much like all the other girls in her town.

God makes each of us an offer, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me... Enter into the joy of your master," (Mt 19:21, and 25:21). Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu took God up on the offer. She got rid of whatever was going to hinder her acquisition of that communion. She gave and gave of herself to all around her. She grew in sanctity until she shined like a star.

Sanctity isn't anything ethereal or fluffy, and it's not anything in a pious picture. There aren't halos around the heads of saints as they walk among us. More often than not, there's dirt or pooh on their hands. At least, that's what was usually on Mother Teresa's. That's because sanctity is holiness, intimacy with the heart and mind and ways of God, sharing in His Life of Self-sacrificing Love.

God offers us each a share in His communion of sanctity. He does not want it to be just Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; rather, He wants it to be Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Joe; Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and you! As we take God up on His offer, leaving behind our sins and anything else that encumbers us, we are drawn closer and closer into communion with God. As we enter into that communion, we share in the same communion as the others drawn by the same God. We enter into the Communion of Saints. That Communion is made of a love so strong that, in Christ, it conquered death, fulfilling the prophecy found in the Song of Songs. "Love is strong as death," (Song 8:6) and in us, as we allow God's love to grow, our hope of conquering death also grows. It allows us to trust Him more, and to leave behind everything else of lesser value, which is everything else. This love is so powerful, this Communion so deep, that we have reason to hope, joining into it, we too will conquer death on the Last Day. Even in the meantime, we are bound by it to the Saints in heaven, and share in their communion.

But we don't start out that way. We start out as a ragtag group of disciples each looking to Jesus and Holy Church for different reasons: some for bread, others for work. Some hope for help cleaning up an addiction. Some come because their parents make them. Some are looking to get help for their kids, new friends, or a fresh start in life. For whatever reason we come, Jesus trains and disciplines us to start looking, not for what we can get, but for what we can give. He teaches us to have constant recourse to Him for all that we need - wisdom, strength, support, love. He helps to keep us focused on Him and on His Will and on His Kingdom. That's how we start: each of us a little Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. The question is where we will end. Will you be the next saint in Holy Church, even if you never get your "St."?

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