Saturday, October 31, 2015

2015/11/01 - All Saints

Before Mass:
Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.  You know, in the Apostle's creed, we profess that we believe in the Communion of Saints… what is the communion of Saints?  We get a vision of that today in our first reading.  On one hand, given the events of this past week - losing a good friend and pillar of this Parish, most of us are probably not much in the mood to celebrate anything… but I think it’s providential that God gave us this feast TODAY… because it is one of those “catholic” things that give us hope specifically in these times of grief. 
So, as we listen to the readings, be thinking of the Communion of Saints.  There’s a question in the first reading I want us to all ask ourselves:  “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”  Pay close attention to what these people are doing – where they are- and how that question is answered.

Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Well that answer really clears it up…NOT!  What in the world is the ‘time of great distress’? ...and how the heck do you make robes WHITE in the Blood of the lamb?  Sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me.
It’s always a bit presumptuous to interpret the book of Revelation.  It has so many possible meanings – and in a way – all of them can be true at once. For example, when this was written, it was common for Christians to be persecuted.  Come to think of it – that was much like all the Christians being persecuted TODAY in the Middle East.  It wasn’t like Dubois County where most everybody is Christian…  WE Christians were outcast… shunned by the Jews and distrusted by the Gentiles.  You might lose your job – or your house – or your life, just because you believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  So you could say THAT’S what the ‘time of great distress’ was talking about.  It was a letter written specifically to bolster the courage of those who were and still are undergoing persecution.  These people are the martyrs… and by spilling their blood for the Faith, we believe they earned the quick-ticket to heaven.  Jesus said, no greater love has one than to lay down your life for your friends… and that’s what they did.  As their blood was spilled, it proved their own moral purity… signified by the white robes.
Do you have to be a martyr to get to heaven?  I don’t think so… in fact, It gives me great comfort that John says the crowd was so huge that nobody could count them.  Maybe there’s room in that crowd for you and me…and Tim…and my Mom…and all the other people we love who are no longer physically with us!?
See – short of physically giving your life as a martyr, each of us can wash our own robes through how we live.  Every one of us goes through our own time of distress…  like losing a family member – losing a good friend – and eventually losing our own life.  In fact, throughout our lives, we gradually learn to give away our life for the sake of others.  Through prayer, works of mercy, serving others… loving others – we learn to completely empty ourselves of our SELF.  Make sense?  Let me say it another way – every time we give up some of our selfishness – it’s like we are spilling our blood – so to speak.  Every time we do something for others, we become less selfish and more like Christ.  See – what we need is a blood transfusion.  We have to get rid of our own selfish blood - and replace that blood with Jesus’ blood…which is the blood of the lamb.
That’s what we do when we come to Communion.  I know – I’m going way deep – but stick with me… when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, it’s like getting a transfusion of the blood of Jesus into us… we become more and more like Jesus as his blood replaces ours.
Notice something in that second read – Beloved, we are God’s children now…. What does it mean to be someone’s child?  Either you’re adopted –or – you have a blood relationship with them.  My Mom and Dad’s blood runs through my veins… likewise, by drinking the blood of Jesus, HIS blood runs through my veins.  We are originally ‘adopted’ children of God through baptism… but through Communion, we become blood relatives with Jesus – and therefore, we are blood relatives with all of the saints who have gone before us!!!  Wow!  All those people that John saw in that first reading are our brothers and sisters… the Saints.

Now – standing around the throne giving praise to God may not sound like much of a fun-time to be had in heaven… but have you ever EXPERIENCED what it’s like to BE part of the communion of saints?  What does it feel like to be part of?  Well – I had a sense of it last week when we had a prayer service for Tim Friedman.  We had maybe a couple hundred people showed up… so maybe half the people we have here today.  But wow – when people really pray in unison like they mean it, it’s inspiring.  Have you ever felt that?  I want to give you that experience right now…. A feeling of what it’s like to BE in the communion of Saints.  We are going to sing Holy, Holy, Holy on page xx – and we’ll sing it a capella – which means without any music.  However, I want us all to sing it like we mean it… sing it so Tim Friedman can hear it.  He loved this parish, and he would have loved to see and hear what is about to happen.  PLEASE – lift your voice and sing with all your might.  Picture yourself standing with the multitude; standing right next to Tim before God’s throne… singing along with the communion of Saints.

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