All Saints Day
November 1, 2020, Christ the King, South Bend
Today we are celebrating with joy the feast of All Saints. The Church throughout the world raises its gaze to heaven. We raise our minds from earthly realities to think about the community of heaven: all our brothers and sisters who, as we heard in the book of Revelation, live before the throne of God and sing His glory forever. They constitute the holy city to which we look with hope as our definitive goal. We are pilgrims here on earth and we are walking toward that holy city where the saints await us. This journey is not always easy. The road can be rough and bumpy. The saints give us hope. And that hope gives us the strength to move forward, to persevere in our faith, so that we will one day join them in eternal glory. They give us hope because they were struggling human beings like us. They also tried to navigate the challenges and difficulties of life. They were sinners who opened themselves to God’s grace and mercy. They confessed their sins; they received the nourishment of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist; they opened themselves to the Holy Spirit, who guided them and enabled them to live the Beatitudes. They persevered in their friendship with God. They teach us to do the same.
This is such an appropriate day for me to come here to Christ the King to bless the addition to your new school. The main reason we have Catholic schools is to educate our children in the faith and to help them to become saints. I often refer to our Catholic schools as schools of holiness. That’s fundamentally our mission: to educate the minds and hearts of our children in the Gospel, in the path of the Christian life. You have been so generous in supporting Christ the King School and the building of the new addition. You’ve made these sacrifices because you believe in the school’s mission to form the next generation of disciples, to educate the children in the Gospel, to educate them in holiness. With the blessing of the school addition today we ask God not only to bless the physical structure, but to bless all who will occupy that structure, the community of Christ the King School, so that it will truly live its identity as a school of holiness, a school that forms faithful disciples of Jesus, active Catholics; a school that forms saints.
In the second reading today, St. John writes: “Beloved, see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” This is the amazing truth we teach our children. This is their and our fundamental identity. In Christ, we have been raised to the dignity of being God’s adopted children. To become saints means to completely fulfill what we are already are: to live as grateful children of our heavenly Father, to respond to His love and goodness by living united to His Son and imitating Him. That’s what the saints did. I think of the newly beatified Italian teenager, who told his friends who asked him about his life’s goal: “Always to be united to Jesus, this is the program of my life.” This was the focus of Carlo’s short life. Imagine how much less stress and anxiety we would have in our lives if we kept that focus and made this our No. 1 priority: “Always to be united to Jesus.” There’s nothing more important in life. That’s what we teach our children. That’s the only way to true happiness. It’s the way to heaven. When we meditate on the Beatitudes, we realize that they are really a self-portrait of Jesus. We can only live the Beatitudes if we are united to Jesus. The saints teach us this. United to Jesus, they walked in His way. In their earthly lives, they were poor in spirit, suffering for sins, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure of heart, peacemakers and persecuted for the sake of justice. They became blessed. They now enjoy happiness in its fullness. They are now consoled, inheritors of the earth, satisfied, forgiven; and they see God. The Kingdom of God is truly theirs.
You’ve all heard the song “When the Saints Go Marching In.” We sing: “Oh when the saints, coming marching in, oh how I want to be in that number!” That’s our beautiful aspiration. When that aspiration burns within us, the hope and desire to join the saints, we are able to overcome every difficulty, every fear, and every tribulation, including this coronavirus pandemic.
The saints want us to join them. They pray for us. We can grasp their hands and ask them to lead us to our heavenly homeland. Let us especially put our hand in the hands of our Blessed Mother, the Queen of All Saints. When we do, we feel encouraged to walk more enthusiastically along the path of holiness.
Finally, I invite you to think about what you are going to do tomorrow, All Souls Day. I imagine most of you will be going to work or school. I invite you to take some time tomorrow to remember your deceased loved ones and to pray for them. Perhaps you are able to attend Mass tomorrow, the greatest prayer we can offer for the faithful departed. Or maybe you can visit the cemetery and pray at their graves. Or pray a family rosary together after dinner: Name your deceased loved ones and offer the rosary for them. In whatever way you choose, I invite you to observe All Souls Day. We, the Church on earth, are united with our brothers and sisters in heaven and also with our brothers and sisters in purgatory. Together, we are the Body of Christ, united in His love, the love more powerful than death.