Have you ever met someone who was considered a celebrity? Years ago while still in the seminary I and 3 of my classmates provided music at 2 of the Masses at a local parish. One Sunday, we were in the sacristy before Mass when in walked Carroll O’Connor, better known at the time as Archie Bunker. He was taller than he appeared on TV, soft-spoken and a very gentle man. As he talked with us he had no airs about him, coming across as a “regular” person, not like a Hollywood and TV star. He was not at all what one might have expected
Have you ever met a saint? I think I have met many over the years. But, like Carroll O’Connor, they were not always what one might expect. They were not “other worldly”. In fact they enjoyed this life and didn’t try to escape from it. They were not free of problems or heartache or concern. They would laugh and cry, be filled with hope and get frustrated, just like everyone else. While some might have thought of them as special, they didn’t see themselves as unusual. Their goodness was simply a part of them, and not put on. They were (and are) regular people who lived their lives as best they could, seeing nothing extraordinary about themselves.
Each though sought to model his or her life after Jesus. Each did so in his or her own unique and personal way and in the circumstances in which he or she lived. In fact that is one of the lessons of today: There is no one way to be a saint. Each journey to heaven is its own.
Do you think of yourself as a saint? If not, why not? Each of us is called to be one. In fact, that is God’s expectation for each of us. One author has stated that sainthood is not something we gain, but it is something we can lose. Each of us must discover how we are to live out our particular brand of sanctity and take our place in that ongoing struggle called the human experience. Just as the world in which we find ourselves is a confusing mixture of good and evil, each of us is as well. I’m sure any number of people around us could easily, and would happily, point out a whole series of our faults, failings and shortcomings. But sanctity is not about being perfect or faultless. Instead, the saint recognizes the need for God's forgiveness and asks for God’s grace. It is doing the best we can to live like Jesus where we are no matter our vocation, no matter our job.
Today’s Feast calls us to break away from any low expectations we might have for ourselves. There are two ways we can start doing so today. The 1st is to look to the example of the saints both canonized and the ones we have met. They show us ways of responding to grace we may never have thought of or thought to apply to ourselves. Their generosity and their single-minded focus on the will of God can stretch our imagination. Their world is so large and their vision so clear that we can’t help but glimpse what we could be too.
The 2nd way is to listen closely to the stories, parable and sayings of the Scripture. Today we hear Jesus pronounce the Beatitudes. Some are clear, like hungering and thirsting for justice and holiness, but others are strange to our way of thinking. Where’s the happiness in being insulted, persecuted, or slandered, for example? But these words too challenge our imagination and our limited ways of looking at reality. Jesus describes an ideal. The saints show how that ideal can be approached.
All Saints Day calls us to our full potential. This day reminds us that God has big dreams for you and for me. Is our dream as big as God’s?