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11/1/18 All Saints - Fr. Reggie

Life on earth is hard. "Continuous warfare," as Job said (7:1). This world is fallen, filled with obstacles to justice, peace, and true happiness. And each one of us carries within us a fallen human nature that tends toward selfishness and sin, in spite of being loved by God and having been redeemed and renewed by his grace. As a result, the life of every Christian here on earth is a hard battle to stay faithful to Christ and to help others do the same. This is why the Church on earth is called the Church Militant.

Official Church teaching doesn't shy away from this.

The Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, taught: "For a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace" (Gaudium et Spes, #37).

We know this, and we have accepted the challenge - that's why we are here today.

And yet, we get tired of fighting, sometimes. We get worn out.

That's why the Church gives us today's Solemnity of All Saints - to rekindle our hope!

Today we take our eyes off the battlefield of earth where the Church militant is fighting, sweating and bleeding. And we lift our gaze to heaven, where we see "a great multitude, which no one could count" gathered around our King, enjoying the rewards of their earthly labors, enjoying victory. These are the saints in heaven - the Church Triumphant. They are people just like us, from every age and place and walk of life, who "survived the time of great distress," as St John calls life on earth in the First Reading.

Contemplating these brothers and sisters in Christ should renew our strength, inspire us, and encourage us.

Most of us have had the experience of attending a high school graduation ceremony, or maybe a different awards ceremony. As underclassmen, we watch the seniors and upper classmen receive their diploma, and many of them are honored with special awards recognizing their achievements during the past four years. And we eagerly long to be up there on the platform, celebrating the victorious completion of our own high school years. Watching our older comrades reach the goal inspires us to keep on striving.

All Saints' Day is like that for the Church. What is life on earth if not a kind of school where we are supposed to learn wisdom, courage, and holiness? And heaven is kind of like an eternal awards banquet, filled with feasting and joy and highlight films and bright lights and fabulous speeches.

Certainly, that is an incomplete picture, and heaven will be much better than that, but today's Solemnity reminds us that it will be at least that wonderful, it will be at least as glorious as St John described in the First Reading, when he saw "a great multitude" shining with glory and power. 

After all, justice is not done on earth. Hundreds and thousands of holy men and women suffer through life's privations and challenges, glorifying God by their patience and heroic generosity, and we never hear anything about them. But we hear non-stop reports about a few movie stars, politicians, and CEOs, many of whom who lead lives of corruptionself-indulgence and scandal. The bad guys seem to win pretty frequently here on earth, while the good guys suffer.

Today, the Church reminds us of where the eternal rewards will actually go. 

What a relief to know that this beautiful but incomplete earthly life is duly crowned in the life to come!

Looking to the saints reminds us that we are part of a bigger story. The sacrifices and struggles we go through here on earth to be faithful to Christ and the Church are worth it. We need this reminder. We need it more than once a year. And the Church gives it to us more than once a year - we celebrate saints' days all throughout the liturgical calendar.

But All Saints' Day reminds us of something that can get lost in the other saints' days. The most famous saints often led such extraordinary lives that it's hard for us to emulate them. It's easy to honor them, recognizing all that they did for Christ, and all that Christ did for them. But honoring the saints is not enough. We also need to emulate them. And this is where All Saints' Day comes in.

Today we honor all of saintly men and women who have not been canonized by the Church, who are not famous saints, but who have nevertheless followed Christ heroically and taken their place in heaven. These are the saints that lived ordinary lives on the outside, and extraordinary lives on the inside. And God didn't overlook them. And there is no shortage of them. They make up a "great multitude, which no one could count," as St John puts it in the First Reading.

Most of us live ordinary lives on the outside.

And maybe some of us, because of that, think that we can't really live up to the high standard set by the famous saints who did miracles and lived dramatic lives.

But today's Solemnity assures us that we can. It assures us that if we live each day as Christ would have us, striving to do God's will with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then our lives, which look so ordinary on the outside, will be truly extraordinary on the inside.

Today we will receive Christ once again in the Eucharist, which has been the food of all the saints.

If he is giving himself to us, it's only because he knows that with his help, we too can experience how blessed it is to be faithful children of God.



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