FEAST OF ALL SAINTS 2015
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, 1st November 2015
“We celebrate the Feast of All Saints. At this time in autumn when the harvest has been collected, the Church celebrates and reminds us of another harvest, the great harvest of goodness and holiness which is represented by the saints who have gone before us, the harvest of the fruits that have sprung from the presence of the love and the grace of the Lord among us, in the lives of those who have remained faithful over the centuries.
We can think of the Church as a building, but it is also the community of those who make up the living Church. The bricks and mortar, the stained glass and the art works of a Church are worth little if they are not accompanied by the concrete works of Christian charity and care, of transmitting from generation to generation what it means to do good to and avoid sin, to be truly loving people and to build up a believing community that is caring.
The same can be said of our own lives: our lives come to fulfilment only when they are open to the path of life reflected in the Gospel reading we have heard: the Gospel of the beatitudes.
The logic of the Beatitudes is different to the logic of the world where personal success, celebrity and wealth are so often looked on as the face of achievement. We all know that personal success is important and satisfying; but we also know that there are many moments in our lives when we need to be helped and supported and carried.
The Feast of All Saints therefore is not just about the next world. It is about the way we are called to live today. The Beatitudes do not encourage us to sit back and do nothing. Being a Christian means belonging to a communion; you cannot be an isolated Christian, just caring for and thinking about yourself.
The Communion of Saints is about the link with those who have gone before us, but the doctrine of the Communion of the Saints also demands that we look towards those who are beside us. It demands that we become saints to those around us – our children, our spouses, our community, our society – showing what it means to be the Church, what it means to witness to the love and the mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday I concelebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica with Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops of the mission of the family in the Church and in society. Pope Francis at the final session of the Synod asked:
What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?
There is no doubt that in many ways in the past the Church’s message on marriage and sexuality was often taught in negative terms, in terms of sinfulness. Pope Francis stressed that:
“the Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord”
The family is in fact a special place of communion and sanctity and evangelization. Families evangelise through being active in the wider Church community. But families evangelise within their own four walls, through the mutual love of the spouses, through their love of their children, through enabling their children to learn affectivity and generosity and faithfulness and prayerfulness, which will be the foundation later for their own personal and family life.
Very rarely do we hear sermons which stress how the real daily love of spouses is the foundation of their holiness. Rarely do we hear how the responsible sexual love of husband and wife can be an expression of communication and tenderness and intimacy and often of reconciliation and forgiveness and thus shares in and reflects tender love of God. Very rarely are parents reminded of how their constant and patient love of their children and their self-giving for them are building blocks of holiness.
Very rarely are we reminded that even in our failures to love we can come to a better understanding of what being poor in spirit and pure in heart really mean. I quote Pope Francis:
“the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners”.
Rather than a language of condemnation, Pope Francis called for a new language which stresses the freedom of the children of God, and calls on families to learn to witness to what he called “the beauty of Christian Newness”, even in the face of a message which has become at times “encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible”.
The Pope stressed the language of mercy and he strongly criticised those in the Church who have;
“closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families”.
Jesus shows us the way; he is the one who really experienced poverty and affliction; he was mild, humble of heart; he showed what it means to hunger and thirst for justice. He is the one who shows us what it means to be merciful, pure in heart and to work for peace. The way to holiness is the way that was led by Jesus Christ himself; he himself is the way.
The Eucharist is the place where Church community is formed. Eucharist is the food which nourishes us. Eucharist is the place where we are brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit, into that deeper unity of the one Body of Christ, and with the Father who is the source of all holiness.