All Saints’ Sunday

I must confess that the feast of All Saints has not every been my favorite holiday.  Part of it is the music, or rather the music choices of my churches past: I sing a song of the Saints of God (well, if you sing it that way, of course you’ll hate it).  There’s also the confusion I have come across about the meaning of the feast of All Saints and how that’s confused with the solemnity of All Souls.

 

Very quickly, the feast of All Saints celebrates the big-S Saints of the Church, the boldface names, people you find in stained glass and church calendars.  All Souls, November 2nd, is a day set apart to remember and pray for all the dead, especially those faithful departed, whose lives and names have not yet been canonized.

 

“All Saints Day grew out of the early church’s practice of remembering the martyrs of the church.

Special days to recognize Saints developed over time.  By the late 300s general observance of a day to honor all Saints was in place.  In the 400s such a day was often held on the Sunday after Pentecost.  By the mid 700s, All Saints Day became connected with November 1 (and often celebrated on the Sunday following).  In time, All Souls Day was celebrated on November 2 in order to recognize the faithful who had died but did not have the distinctive title, “Saint”.”[1]

 

Now, one of my favorite things about being your priest is that I get to sit with the Church School kids for what we call “Ask Fr. Matt”.  The kids (and usually their parents) get to ask me anything they want, and then I attempt to answer them the best I can.  Over the years there’s only been one or two sessions in which I wasn’t asked about people living with dinosaurs, and those were my favorite one or two sessions.  But I have been asked about what it takes to become a Saint.  There’s an actual definition of that process, of course, having to do with sanctity of life, miracles worked, humility shown, but I wonder if there isn’t another way of looking at it, another way of working toward sainthood.

 

“For the writers of the New Testament, saints really were just folk like them, who had set their hope on Christ and lived for the praise of his glory.  They were not put on pedestals or into stained glass and their personal faults and shortcomings were very much in evidence.  They struggled to keep Christ at the center of their lives and to follow his difficult teachings.  They weren’t saints because they always did the right thing, or because they had all the answers, or because they were always sweet and pleasant.  They were saints because their relationships with Jesus Christ were so open and intimate as to let his love transform them.”[2]

 

Does that sound like us?  I think it does.  Being here, being in a place like this that essentially demands that we not only worship Jesus but find Him in everyone we meet, especially the most vulnerable, and then blessing them the best we can, means working toward sainthood.  Working on sainthood means joining Jesus in His mission, “accepting his mission as our own.  That is the answer to the skeptics of the world who might fairly ask, just how is it that the poor, the hungry, and the weeping are blessed? How does Jesus bless them?  The answer, I hope, is that Jesus blesses them… through us.”[3]

 

That sounds great, especially when sitting in church, but it can be harder in practice.  Joining in Jesus’ mission in the world means acting in ways that are counter to the world.  The world may think you’re weird or threatening; some people might not know how to deal with a modern-day saint.

 

But if and when that happens, Jesus has you covered: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

 

And so, my fellow saints, how is Jesus working His mission through you today?

 

[1] Richard J Hull, Celebrating All Saints. http://www.christianchurchfoundation.org/userfiles/files/allsaintsdayworshipresource2012.pdf

[2] Fr. Bret Hays, from a Sermon given on All Saints’ Day, 2013.

[3] Ibid.

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