Sunday, November 1, 2015

Who Is On Your Side? -- Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints

St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Kateri Tekewitha, St. Maria Goretti, St. Joseph…

Our band director: St. Kyle of Cottleville…

St. Danny… patron of youth ministers…

Wouldn’t that be wonderful? We’re called to be saints, right?

St. Anthony Gerber… I like the sound of that….

*          *          *

For the past week, I didn’t know what to tell you about all the saints. I mean, how does a priest preach about all the graces of all the saints? Or even, how can I tell you about all the ways that God helps us to become saints? So many stories, so many graces!

Well, on Friday night, God helped me out.

I was standing at the center line of the soccer field at Tony Glavin’s soccer complex (… St. Tony Glavin…)  I was with a bunch of my brother priests (… and perhaps future saints!). We were practicing for the upcoming Souls and Goals soccer game between priests and seminarians.

So, practice on Friday…  We had been scrimmaging for a full hour and a half and there I was at mid-field, dribbling the ball. One of the guys came in with a good tackle and stole it away. Typically, I’d go run it down, but I had nothing left, not even for one more run. It was all in the hands of my defense now. At which point Father Schroeder (…St. Father Schroeder!...) swooped in and saved the day.

In this moment, something struck me as I stood huffing and puffing at mid-field. I realized that I couldn’t do it all by myself. Scoring goals and defending goals requires that I rely on others, on their talents and on the graces that God has given them. In other words, I was on a team and I needed to trust the team.

St. Theresa Avila put it this way (and I paraphrase): At the early stage of our spiritual life, when we are still absorbed in worldly affairs and engulfed in pleasures and honors and ambitions, we must take every opportunity to call upon our blessed Mother and the saints, so that they may do battle for us, since we often have little strength for defending ourselves. (Interior Castle, trans. Peers, p. 16).

*          *          *

It’s so easy to think that we are alone, that the darkness is winning, and that becoming a saint is impossible. So often, it seems we’re standing at the mid-field of life, weak and with little strength to fight temptation, much less to sacrifice for others. It’s in that moment that we are called to realize that we are not alone! We are on a team!

And it’s not just some future team out there some where. We hear of the great crowd surrounding the throne of the lamb… That’s here! Right here at this Holy Mass. The saints—Peter and Justin and Bridget and Lucy, to name just a few—the saints are gathered around here, the throne which is the altar and the Lamb which is Jesus. We heard the four creatures calling out—that’s the four Gospels right here. And the elders—that’s the priests. The saints are really with us and especially right now!

Here in the pews with us is St. Monica. She wept for her husband and her son’s conversion for years. She will help you who are grieving family and friends who have fallen away.

St. Thomas More: he knew very well the governmental problems of his day. And yet he kept the faith and stayed hopeful, even unto martyrdom! He will help us as we see the battles within our nation.

Do you sometimes struggle with doubt? Did you know that St. Therese of Lisieux did too? Or that Mother Theresa did not have one consolation for over thirty years? Go to them if you feel dry or lost in your faith.

Students: I forget who, but I heard a saint say that studying is crucifixion at a desk. Pope St. John Paul II knew this well when he had to do his studies literally underground as the Nazi’s and then the Communists occupied his country. He can help you with your pre-Calc homework, I promise!

St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Damian Molokai, St. Rita, St. Bernadette….

Brothers and sisters, our team is stacked!

So do not be afraid! The saints will help us as lights do on a runway, guiding us as we try to land this plane in the darkness. The saints help to light our way when times are dark. They will help us!

*          *          *

And why? Because they love us.

They see in you someone who is exactly where they once were: someone who faces the struggles of life, the burdens of sin, the darkness of the world, the disappointments and the fears…. And they came here, just like you now are, at Holy Mass, asking God, pleading with Him—and maybe even hearing about the saints who came before them and who preserved and did great things with God’s grace.

Perhaps they heard what I now tell you: that in heaven one of the joys will be for us to meet our holy friends the saints who have helped us along the way.

That thought gives me pause.

You see, we’re on the same field—those saints and us. We’re on the same field! Heaven and earth here, one.

We are all of us playing the same game, fighting the same opponent, working towards the same goal!

So I don’t have to wait until heaven to work side-by-side with them. We’re actually doing this together right now! St. Thomas More… he’s right there behind me. St. Ignatius is up there, leading the way. St. Maria to my left, and St. Therese on my right…

I am never alone. I’m on a team!

Let us remember the saints and call on them. Ask them to help you!

Because you see, you too are being called to be a saint. St. Kyle, St. Danny, St. Anthony… all on the same team, themselves lead by amazing saints who have come before. And when we respond, know that there will be saints who follow you just as we have been inspired by those holy men and women who have come before us. A great litany of saints following behind you!

Saints—sitting at your left and at your right, behind you and before you….

All you holy saints of God, pray for us!

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