Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, a day set aside by Pope Gregory IV back in the year 835 to be celebrated on November 1st as the Christian counterpart of honoring our unknown soldiers/saints. So just who is a saint? The definition of a saint is a person who is extremely virtuous, a person who pleases God in what they do and what they say. Usually when we think of a saint we think of a person who is dead but to meet that definition that really isn't necessary is it? So today's feast can be for both those living and dead. On that basis who in your life do you believe are saints? I believe I know or have known many some of whom are here in this church with us today. Looking at a few people who have lived during my lifetime who I would define as a saint while they were living and they include Pope John XXIII, Mother Theresa, Solanus Casey and Phil Simpson? The first three are being considered for canonization but Phil wasn't even Catholic but is an extremely virtuous engineer I had the privilege to work with some years back in Charlotte, North Carolina. Who do you think we should we add to the list?
God calls you and I to be saints everyday. It was always fun in my days as a catechist to ask my students if they wanted to be saints. Many would say no in that "that wouldn't be any fun." Then I would remind them that unless you don't become a Saint you are destined to spend eternity with the Devil. What would your answer be to that question? Do you want to be a saint? I have had people who knew they were called to be saints to get to heaven say they didn't think heaven would be so great, just sitting around praising God. Maybe it would be a better question to ask: "Do you want to be happy?". I don't think anyone would answer no to that question, but maybe they would add that they didn't want to be required to die to be happy and living the Commandments every day doesn't seem to be a way to be happy here on earth in that it's fun to break a Commandment or two every so often. It may seem that way but for sure that happiness isn't long lived and Jesus' message in today's Gospel provides us with the formula for true happiness while we live and eternal happiness after God calls us home.
Jesus' message in today's Gospel gives us the Beatitudes which are his definition of the Commandments given in positive terms. Of course the translation we have of the 8 Beatitudes in today's Gospel might not be seen as 8 things to follow which if followed would provide us with true happiness. Just the word Blessed can make a person think of someone who is kind of kind of a holy holy, and who is happy to mourn? God doesn't call us to be holy holy or someone who is happy to do something distasteful but rather wants us to be happy doing his will here on earth with the ultimate happiness in heaven.
A shorter more positive and I believe more valid translation of Jesus' message in the Beatitudes is what is contained in "The Handbook for Today's Catholic" which reads: Happy are those who need God.
Happy are those with self-control.
Happy are those who are sorry for sin.
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for holiness.
Happy are the merciful.
Happy are those who love with all their heart.
Happy are the peacemakers.
Happy are those who suffer for doing what is right.
Do you think anyone can disagree with them?
Returning to the question, "Do you or I want to be saints?" or maybe a better question is, "Do you or want to be truly happy?". Jesus gives us the formula for being truly happy here and hereafter. Can a person be unhappy if one "loves with all their heart?