4.18. Sun. wk 31 – O. T. – B
Deuteronomy 6: 2 – 6
Hebrews 7: 23 – 28
Gospel – Mark 12: 28b – 34
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture Readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy To Be a Saint
On Thursday, which was the Solemnity of All Saints, many of our children who attended the School Mass that morning – were dressed up as Saints. There were about 40 of them. Then they came forward one by one, stood up here in front and I asked them to tell us something about their saint. One little girl – who wasn’t very tall, was dressed as a traditional religious nun, and I asked her who she was, and she said: “I don’t know”. I said: “Well, you are dressed as a nun, but you don’t know who you are?” She said: “No, I don’t. I can’t remember”. Well, I told her: “You know what – You represent all those unnamed saints. Those who lived heroic lives of love and virtue that will never be known by the rest of us – and that is who you represent”. She seemed pretty pleased about that.
All Saints Day, is not just to remember those saints that the Church canonized – but it is really for all the unknown saints. Those of us who will never be pictured on Holy Cards, those of us who won’t have stained glass windows with our image on it, or whose name will never be included on the Church’s calendar. All Saints Day is a day for all the rest of us. Who are these unknown saints? I think you probably have met one or two in your lifetime – or you will meet them.
Think about you own life. Who handed on the Faith to you? Who in you life served as a role model of goodness and love? Was it a parent – a grandparent – a neighbor – maybe a friend? Did you ever meet someone and say: “Now – that’s a saint”! So – you have met them already – these unnamed saints. And what is it that distinguishes a saint from the rest of us?
In the Gospel †Jesus gives us the criteria for holiness. “The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mark 12:29ff) It’s all right there – the two great commandments! You don’t have to know any more than that. That’s what it takes to become a saint. And countless men and women, down through the centuries, have lived lives of heroic love and virtue. They may never have been canonized by a Pope; but they share in the ‘Communion of Saints’ in heaven – just as sure as St. Peter and St. Paul and St. Theresa.
We have all known people who loved God and loved others; who have loved us even when it was inconvenient to love us. They went out of their way to help others – these are the small “s” saints. They are not perfect. Of course God does not expect us to be perfect to earn His love. He gives it to us freely despite our faults, despite our sins, our imperfections, and our weaknesses. But the Lord does call us to put Him first in our life – before all of our worldly goods and ambitions – and those things that consume our daily life. We put all of those things second to the Lord. Why? Because He knows that this is what will really make us happy. All those material things we have won’t bring us joy – but to be united with God – will bring lasting joy.
†Jesus linked these two commandments together in the Gospel today – and this is what was unique to the 1st century Jew. The Jewish prayer – the “Shema Israel” – “The Lord is our God, and there is no other God beyond Him”. A pious Jew would say that prayer several times a day – going in and out of their home or in and out of another building. They would touch the “mezuzah” on the door post – it contained a small scroll with those words written on it – and so the Jews are always being reminded of the “Shema Israel”.
†Jesus then made it clear: “Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable”. It is not merely a suggestion – if you want to know God – you really ought to love your neighbor, too. Now – †Jesus makes it an imperative. One cannot love God and not love their neighbor. The love of God is lived out in love of others. They are of the same substance – inseparable! If what †Jesus said here is true – then our neighbors are ‘sacred’ – as God is “Sacred’. All people are worthy of our love – just as God is worthy of our love.
- S. Lewis wrote this: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your…neighbor, he is holy – and almost in the same way, for in your neighbor – is also Christ – the Glorifier and the Glorified. Glory, Himself is truly hidden”. (from: “The weight of Glory and Other Addresses”; William H. Eerdman’s Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI). The Lord is hidden in your neighbor. If we are members of the Body of Christ – we must believe that the love of God – and love of neighbor are inseparable.
Do you know why we have Holy Water Fonts at the entrances and doors of all the Church? Do you know why that is? The Holy Water Font is to remind us of the Baptismal Font. When we come into Church – we dip our fingers in the Holy Water and we bless ourselves. We do that because we want to say that we are Baptized people. We are God’s people, His family. And we bless our self as we come into the Church to remind us we are “disciples” – we are here as followers of †Jesus. And we bless our self as we leave the Church to make a statement that we are now “apostles” as we leave the Church.
You see – disciples are students. Here we listen to God’s Word, we study the Word of God through the Homily and reflection of the Scriptures. When we leave – we bless our self as apostles. (‘Apostle’ means – one who is sent.) So now we are sent out the doors of the Church to proclaim what we have learned in here. The Eucharist feeds us to become what we eat – ‘the Body of Christ to the world’ – united to our brothers and sisters – strengthening us to build up the Body of Christ – through our love.
All that is contained in those non-descript Holy Water Fonts that we often pass by and forget about. We bless ourselves to remind us that we are Baptized as disciples of Christ as we enter here. We bless ourselves to remind us that we are commissioned as apostles when we leave – to be what we experienced here – God’s presence in the world. This is the Mission that we are sent on by †Jesus.
Now we all know people who like to say: (particularly young people) “How boring Mass is”. We have all heard that. For those people who think the Mass is boring – you just don’t get it! You don’t understand it at all. We do not come to Mass to be entertained. Mass is not boring – if this becomes a ‘School of Holiness’ for you. By coming here every week – your “school” is in session to help you become a saint. We are all apostles and ‘saints in training’ and this is a Sacred Classroom. We are sitting now in a Sacred Classroom and you are being taught how to serve as †Jesus served: “How to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and with all your strength – and to love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mark 12:29ff)
You are taught here today and every time you come into this Church – how to be a saint. That’s why – when you listen to the ‘Word of God’ – you must be attentive to the Scriptures. When you hear the Homily (maybe it’s not 100% stimulating) but there is something there that you can take from it – to help you on your way to holiness.
In heaven – it doesn’t matter if we are a big “S” Saint – like Paul or Peter – or if we are a little “s” saint – like that little girl that was here. We all have a place at the Heavenly Banquet of the Lord.
A couple of weeks ago you might recall that we reflected on the choice we all must make – whether we want to be a “good” person or we want to be a GREAT PERSON. This is determined by how we live – what †Jesus spoke of – when we go out the doors of this Church. Do we love the unlovable? Do we love those who are hard to love or those who have hurt us? Do I love those that I just don’t like? Can I do that?
To love as a saint, demands putting aside all judgments. I reach beyond my own wants and needs and I put others first. It requires grace from God and prayer. And sometimes it requires a LOT of grace from God to do that. God will give us the power and strength to love Him with our ALL – to love our neighbor as our self. It all began with the Grace of Baptism – when you were called to be a disciple. And it continues with the Grace of the Eucharist, where you are sent out as apostles.
This is the ‘School of Holiness’. Going from here – we live what we believe. And then on the day of graduation – we will be counted among the Communion of Saints at the Heavenly Banquet Feast.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.