Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the Solemnity of All Saints – November 1, 2018. The readings for today can be found at :http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110118.cfm . Thanks as always for reading
Tuesday afternoon, I took part in a panel discussion on campus that was titled “When Tragedy Strikes” which was in response to the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting in which 11 people were killed Saturday as the congregants gathered for a historic moment in the life of a Jew, a Bris. In addition, we were discussing another attempted shooting that almost took place in Kentucky at an African American Church which when the shooter was unable to get into that Church, went to a local supermarket, found two African Americans there and shot and killed them as well… as well as calling attention to a local woman in Montclair who was killed by her boyfriend. This was followed by a candle-light vigil in the Student Center Quad where the victims names were read, there were some speeches, and moments of silence.
As you can imagine, with all of these extreme examples of hatred and violence, there was a tremendous amount of emotion. And the panel discussion really went in a lot of different directions. But one over-arching theme had to do with “Power.” The evil power exhibited by the shooters… the responses to it (and the obviously deepening divide between people from different political vantage points) – which results in even greater debates, violence, anger… the helplessness or fatigue that people feel in the face of these stories… I found myself in a unique spot – not really able to find a lot of words to participate in the debates, discussions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the face of tragedy and when people are at different stages of grief, it’s best to simply be with people, and to listen. But I can’t say that I didn’t stop thinking about it.
Which is why after our Halloween party Tuesday night, and I looked at the scriptures here for this celebration of All Saints Day, it was providential for me. Here we encounter one of Jesus’ best known teachings – the Sermon on the Mount. And what Jesus tells us is quite radical. Pursuits of power – whether it’s the violent or extreme type we saw in acts of hate; or the manipulative and coerced types that utilize these incidents for their own biases and agendas – will never lead to fulfillment; will never bring the human heart joy. Jesus very clearly outlines in the Beatitudes (and demonstrated throughout his life, death and resurrection) that the only way to experience joy and fulfillment is in loving our neighbor, serving one another and deepening our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
We celebrate this feast not to worship “Saints” as some mistakenly accuse Catholics of doing. But rather to recognize countless men and women who for thousands of years have done just that. Who heard in their normal daily lives that same call we’re hearing right now. That call to holiness that is achieved in simple acts of charity, serving the poor, finding God and pursuing Him no matter what it was that was going on around them. Whether they were mourning, or being persecuted; or were hungering and thirsting… as they responded being merciful, being peacemakers, pursuing righteousness that the Lord calls everyone of us to – the pursuit of power is upended. God is placed at the center, and we are truly the children of God we’re called to be.
We can – and should – debate many things that cause these types of tragedies and how to respond as a civilized society (that seems less and less civil). But for you and I, not just in the face of when tragedy strikes, but each and every day – we have a much bigger call to listen to and respond to. A call that conquers this and every evil. A call that changes us and the world around us. That is the call the Beatitudes lays out for us. That is Jesus’ call to follow his roadmap to be a powerful force for good. That is the call to Holiness. That is the call to be Saints ourselves.