|The Solemnity of All Saints
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
First John 3:1-3
Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, I was quite enamored of books. I never thought that real people actually wrote these things so it was with great fascination, and some trepidation, that at the ripe old age of 15 I met my first author, Jean Shepherd, a noted radio personality in the New York area, at a book signing. I went with my cousins and I was not sure what might happen. There at the end of a table was a very funny but also very ordinary person. I shook his hand, talked a little bit, had him sign my Jersey City public library card (his hard cover book was well beyond most high school students’ socio-economic bracket at the time), and said good bye.
I also never thought that real people were saints until I met Regina MacEvoy when as a college student I worked in Department of Community Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. Regina was a contemplative Maryknoll Sister who left the monastery to work actively among the poor in Greenwich Village. She was quiet, funny and generous. There was nothing remarkable about her on the surface but in working with her I witnessed (and sometimes shared in) her compassion, care and deep love of the people whom she served. Bandaging a wound, urging someone to take their blood pressure medicine or saying an Our Father over the body of someone who died alone in a single room occupancy hotel were all one to her.
The gospel today does not tell us WHO are saints but how to reach for sanctity. There is no talk about being perfect or remaining aloof or even drinking deeply of divine bliss while floating on clouds with angels strumming away. The beatitudes are practical guides to sanctity, putting it in reach of all of us. We mourn, we hunger, we thirst, we lack, we are hurt, we make peace. These are actions and not states of being. Sanctity is a verb and not a noun.
I suppose my awe of authors and saints resided in the fact that they seemed remote and perfect (or I had made them such). It was in meeting authors that I was encouraged to peruse the path of the scholar. It was in meeting saints like Regina that I was encouraged to continue the Christian path. It is in the ordinary that we encounter Christ and His saints and are given the grace to be the beatitudes.
Today is a day to rejoice in all the Saints of the Church, all the saints in our lives, and what is saintly in each of us. The Gospel, like life itself, is full of paradoxes, for we are told today that when we and others are less than complete THEN we have the opportunity for deeper sanctity and the Kingdom of God will indeed appear.
Jean Shepherd told stories and wrote books about ordinary people
(most familiar today is the movie adaptation of many of his stories compiled
into “A Christmas
Story.” Sister Regina was quite ordinary and worked with the
very ordinary people. It is in the ordinary of life that we can receive
the sanctity of God and share it with others. It is in the brokenness
around us and within ourselves that we can be elevated in holiness shoulder
to shoulder with those “wearing white robes and holding palm branches in
their hands.” For indeed, as John reminds us, "Salvation comes from
our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb."
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