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.

All Called to Be Saints

Here is the first contribution of Rev. Mr. David Wells to this blog.  I have adapted slightly, with his permission, the homily that he gave on the Feast of All Saints, about two weeks ago.  Before long, his posts will appear with his own signature.  Enjoy!

The Marine Corps Marathon on a recent Sunday in D.C. and I know a few people who ran in the race.  One was a priest who used to be where I currently serve as deacon, at St. Jude’s, Rockville, Maryland; he goes by the name of Fr. Rob Walsh.  From what I hear, Fr. Walsh finished the marathon but it was not beautiful to behold.  Even with months of training, running a marathon is no easy feat.  Everyone who runs a marathon follows a training regimen, more or less strictly, so that when race day comes, they don’t get to mile seven and start looking for the nearest metro stop.  In other words, they have a goal—finishing the marathon—and a plan for how they will carry that out—their training regimen.

"My uncle was fond of saying that the goal of life is heaven.  “The goal of life is heaven.”  One spiritual writer puts it this way: “The ultimate failure in life is not to be a saint.”   Recently, the Church celebrated the Feast of All Saints.  We honor those who have reached that goal of heaven and we ask for their help and prayers to rally us on to the finish line.  The saints are like those people who cheer us on after they’ve finished the race, because they know that the award is well worth the struggle.  But even if we have the goal firmly established, how do we reach that goal?  The last thing we want is to be like that person who decides to run a marathon and has no plan for running it.

"Now the plan for going about reaching our goal of heaven is unique for each of us.  God has a distinct plan, a distinct mission, for each one of us.  But that being said, there are some things we all share in common.  There are certain things that if we keep them in mind and carry them out, will aid all of us in reaching our goal of heaven.  I’ve come up with three suggestions, but the Lord knows there are many other things.

"The first piece of advice I have is “keep your eye fixed on the prize.”  When you first begin training for the marathon and you’re sore and out of breath after a half mile; when it’s 95 degrees out and not a bit of shade on the route; and when those shoes everyone says you have to buy cost more than your last suit.  When you encounter all of these setbacks, if your goal is not fixed firmly in place—to run a marathon—you’ll soon give up and head back for the air conditioning.

"The saints recognized and always kept at the forefront that the goal of life is union with God in heaven.  This motivated not just their big decisions but was the motivating factor behind their small decisions as well.  We should think about heaven . . . a lot.  It should fascinate us.  The first reading from the Book of Revelation powerfully and symbolically illustrates the glory of the saints in heaven.  St. John asks who the persons wearing white robes and holding palm branches are.  He is told that these are the saints who suffered great tribulations on earth but whose robes have been washed by Christ’s blood and now glorify God forever.

"In the second reading, St. John reminds the community to whom he writes that they are God’s children now.  This great saint and mystic admits next, “What we shall be hasn’t been revealed.”  It’s beyond our wildest imagination and surpasses our greatest hopes what we shall be like in heaven.  And finally, in the Gospel, Jesus encourages his disciples to undergo suffering and face difficulties during this life, because they will enjoy great glory in heaven.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The saints greatly look forward to heaven and to being with God forever.  We, too, must keep our eye fixed on the prize, and not get too distracted by our everyday problems.  This world is short, eternity is forever.

"The second thing we should keep in mind to reach our goal of heaven is that it’s possible.  It’s possible to be a saint.  No, this is too weak a statement.  It’s expected of us, it’s normal in God’s eyes.  Not only that, but God wants us to be saints and will give us every aid necessary in order to reach our goal.  Sometimes it feels like God is working against us, but this is never the case.  He’s our number one fan and supporter.   Pope John Paul II canonized more saints in his 25 years as pope than were canonized in the previous 450 years.  In doing this, he wanted to show us that not only is it possible to be a saint, it should be thought of as normal to be one.  We’re all called to be one.

"One of the things that makes this difficult is that we think the saints were superhuman and we could never equal their feats.  We don’t read souls, pray all day, talk with God in mystical prayer, or appear in two places at once.  Well, don’t worry, because the saints, apart from Mary, were far from perfect.  St. Padre Pio, an Italian, was known for being short-tempered.  St. John Marie Vianney failed out of seminary and was sent to the middle-of-nowhere city of Ars, France because it was thought there he could do the least damage.  St. Teresa of Avila got so mad at God once, she shouted at him, “if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”  The saints weren’t great because they were superhuman or perfect, but because they realized they were sinners and relied totally on God.  Reaching our goal is possible, because God desires it, the saints root us on, and the Church is like our mother, giving us the spiritual nourishment to accomplish it.

"The third thing to keep in mind as we strive toward our goal is that we fail daily, but we should persevere nonetheless.  Discouragement is one of the most debilitating things for us as faithful Christians.  Scripture says that even the just man falls seven times a day.  Mother Teresa wisely said that she received so much grace because she was such a great sinner.  The great St. Paul tells us that he is the foremost of sinners.  But this doesn’t get him down.  He recognizes his sin, and then abandons himself to god’s infinite mercy.  After a century of two World Wars, countless other massacres, and many other evils, humanity is tempted to reflect and concentrate on its own sinfulness.  This couldn’t be any more false.  The message Christ gives us is that of mercy.  His mercy completely swallows up the worst of our sins if we turn to him with true contrition.  If we are faithful to the sacrament of confession, we are well on our way to reaching our goal.

"If we keep our eyes fixed on the prize of heaven, realize that it is not only possible but it’s expected of us, and if in spite of our failings we persevere in the race, we shall surely be among those who are with God forever in heaven.  This is our hope and this drives us on.  My brothers and sisters, let us enter the race, so that one day we may share the joy of the communion of saints in heaven.  My all the angels and saints pray for us and intercede for us."
Awesome, Deacon Dave! Thanks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great homily. Very encouraging.