Best Friends For Ever and Ever
All Saints Day
Today we celebrate All the Saints,
as our first reading says, those who
receive and possess the kingdom for ever and ever.
and, as our second reading says,
who enjoy the riches of Christ’s glorious inheritance,
Brother and Sisters, officially recognized by the Church for their holiness,
i.e., their overflowing love and their wisdom.
This beautiful church building (restoration needed!) represents some of them.
Our mural, drawn into the Ascension of the Lord,
the Queen of Saints, Mary, in the center,
with whom stands, left to right,
Saints Thomas of Canterbury, Agnes, Athanasius,
Alban, Margaret of Scotland, Vincent.
(You can read about them in your bulletin…!)
In our clerestory, above us,
seventy-seven saints (the number of perfection, by the way, which Jesus gives when asked about forgiveness, i.e., the exercise of overflowing love).
At the end of our worship, we will call upon them in a Litany of Saints.
We are indeed preceded, surrounded, accompanied and loved
by those fully transfigured by the Holy One.
“I believe in the Communion of Saints.” Thank you, Apostles’ Creed.
This celebration, as you may know, dates to the early Church.
The first Christians celebrated the anniversaries of martyrs,
i.e., those who gave everything for and to their Lord, sure saints.
And the list of holy ones grew, and Christians continued to honor them,
recognizing that grace is not a shroud over darkness but transformative.
In the 300s, St. John Chrysostom spoke of a feast day for “all the saints”.
In the 600s, the Pantheon in Rome was consecrated to Mary and the martyrs.
In the 700s, a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter
was consecrated to all the saints and the anniversary set for November 1.
In the 800s, that local celebration was extended to the entire Church.
And, ever since, we have been celebrating the Lord’s wonders in the saints.
This may sound abstract, irrelevant, even boring: pious persons on pedestals?
We struggle to grasp how Jesus might work through others
—especially if they’re dead.
“I believe in the Communion of Saints.”
These are friends, who are alive, BFFs, best friends for ever--and ever!
And, as I’ve said before, in the divine realm, three’s company.
The Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, about this holy company, says:
It is quite a thing, really. That we be connected to so many, to so much faith, so many stories, so much divine love. Especially in this day and age of alienation and trying to find community and belonging in smaller and smaller ways. I may think that the basis of me being connected to other people is in having political beliefs or denominational affiliation or neighborhood or musical taste or Facebook groups in common. But none of this is what connects me to the Body of Christ. What connects me to the Body of Christ is not my piety or good works or even theological beliefs. It’s God, a God who gathers up all of His children into the Church eternal.
Today’s gospel, the beatitudes, reveals the lives and hearts of the saints and,
in the form of a promise, reveals God’s desire that we be saints,
transformed in love and closer to Him and one another than we can imagine.
The beatitudes are not a pep-talk for the downtrodden
nor a list of conditions for blessing.
They reveal Jesus lavishly blessing the world around him,
reaching into the fragility of our lives to give healing grace.
And nothing in us is an obstacle to this gift—except willful refusal.
Jesus is among us, in us, proclaiming beatitude, sharing God’s happiness,
even if we are not expecting it or looking for it.
Blessed are you who are unsure and doubt, for you will be surprised.
Blessed are you who feel overwhelmed and unable to engage anything new,
or have the impression that you have nothing to offer,
for you will find light and freshness.
Blessed are you for whom death is not an abstraction,
who weep after all this time the death of your beloved,
who can’t fall apart because you have to keep it together for everyone else, who feel lonely, fragile, who struggle with anger,
for you will find rest for your souls.
Blessed are all you kids,
especially every kid who just wants to feel safe but does not,
for you are loved and safe in Jesus’ arms.
Blessed are you whom no one else seems to notice,
who struggle to make eye contact with a world that only loves the winners,
for you are the apple of His eye.
This sacred beatitude meal is for us,
for which the only condition is hunger, willingness.
The Eucharist, Communion: the broken and risen body of Christ given.
In celebrating all the saints, we really and ultimately celebrate Him,
the Holy One Who makes us holy by giving us new life, His life,
setting us free from whatever seems to keep us from loving:
backache, headache, stomach-ache, heartache,
Who, with all the saints,
brings us out of error into truth, sin into righteousness, death into life.