Called to be Saints

Homily for Sunday, November 6, 2016
All Saints’ Day

This morning I am going to preach two homilies – don’t worry, both short.  On this All Saints’ Day I want to say something about saints, how we are all called to be saints.  And then I want to say something about our country’s forthcoming election.

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First, about saints.  In September I attended a panel discussion at Boston College for the new movie, “Ignacio de Loyola:  Soldier, Sinner, Saint,” about Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.  Taking part in the panel discussion were the lead actor who played Ignatius, Andreas Munoz, and also the associate director, Catherine Azanza.  Both Andreas and Catherine said some insightful things about saints.

When the moderator asked Andreas how he prepared himself to portray a saint, Andreas laughed and said:

Good question.  I realized early on that there was no way I was up to portraying a saint.  But after I thought and prayed about it, I realized that what I could do was to portray a human being who had faced some challenges, who had stuck with it, and who ended up choosing a holy way.

When the moderator asked Catherine about the musical score for the film, how it was developed, Catherine said:

The composer Raymundo Cayabyab [a prominent Filipino composer] is very gifted.  And before we called the movie “Ignacio de Loyola,” we were going to call it “The Conversion of Ignacio de Loyola.”  Raymundo was imagining writing a majestic, sweeping score for the conversion scene.  But when Ray actually saw the movie, he said, “This movie would be better titled, ‘The Quiet Thing of Ignacio de Loyola,’ because these is no single conversion scene; his conversion happens very quietly, almost without notice, over the course of the whole film.”  So he wrote a score that ever so subtly changes in style over the course of the film.

all-saints-icon-brightWe know that we are called to be saints, too – “They were all of them saints of God –  and I mean, God helping, to be one too.”  The panel discussion reminds us that to be a saint does not necessarily mean doing extraordinary things:  “There is no way we are up to portraying a saint.”  But what we can do is to be a human being , to face life’s challenges, to stick with it, and to do our best to choose a holy way.

The composer reminds us that conversion does not happen all at once; there is probably not one climactic moment in our life deserving of majestic, sweeping music.  The “music” of our conversion is more subtle, most likely with only slight changes in style that reflect the quiet, usually unnoticed way in which our hearts turn to God over the course of a lifetime.

We are all called to be saints.   I pray that we have the grace, when faced with life’s challenges, to stick with it, to give it time – because our hearts’ conversion is often gradual and quiet – and to choose a holy way.

The second homily I want to preach is about the forthcoming election.  This year’s election is more divisive than any I remember.  In this polarized time, our country is counting on us to be Christians; that is, to be agents of reconciliation.  Whomever you vote for, keep in mind that we Christians are called to be agents of reconciliation.  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians:

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

In a way, Christianity is all about uniting those which seem opposite.   Christmas brings together heaven and earth.  Jesus unites the human and divine.   The sacraments use elements of this world to signify something of the next.  We Christians have it in our DNA to bring together seeming opposites, to be agents of reconciliation.

Yesterday at Diocesan Convention, Bishop Gates spoke about the difference between paranoia and metanoia, two Greek words, the former meaning “beside or beyond one’s mind,” the latter meaning “to change one’s mind or purpose.”   Paranoia is all about fear, metanoia about love.  We Christians are called not to paranoia but to metanoia.  For we are called to love, and love casts out fear.  Imagine, if we could but love more deeply and widely – if we could but love more fully like the one who first loved us – how we might begin to dispel the paranoia that surrounds us.

One concrete way to be an agent of reconciliation – to do metanoia rather than paranoia – is to notice the good that is in this country.  Look around at how many good people there are, on either side of the political divide!  And it will require conversion – metanoia – to see past the outliers we hear about in the news, to see past stereotypes, and to see more like God sees – that we are all beloved, forgiven children of God, worthy of respect, dignity and – dare I say it – love.

synaxis_of_all_saints_iconThe Feast of All Saints’ is often associated with the book of Revelation.  (“Who are these robed in white, and where have they come from?…  These are they who have… washed their robes… in the blood of the Lamb.”)  Revelation reminds us that this is God’s world.  This is God’s world, and God is in the process of winning this world back.  In the end times, Revelation says, the heavenly Jerusalem will come down from heaven, and God will make his home here among mortals.  When that city descends, says Revelation, there will be a river that runs through it, and on either side of the river a tree of life, the leaves of which are for “the healing of the nations.”

I hope this All Saints’ Day will remind us of our call to be saints, to live not in fear but out of love.  To see the goodness in people, to see the possibility for conversion, to see a vision of God making his home among mortals and “wiping away every tear from their eyes.”   I hope that today God gives us the grace to be agents of reconciliation, to bear witness to that vision.  To that city, that river and tree, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

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