Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
November 1, 2015
SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS
Rev. 7: 2 – 4, 9 – 14; Ps 24; 1 John 3: 1 – 3; Matthew 5: 1 – 12a
St. John in Revelation shares a profound mystical experience: “I had a vision of a great multitude which no one can count…they stood before the Lamb, wearing white robes…They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb’.” This immense gathering of the holy ones is caught up into the eternal peace and life of our God, forever abiding in the embrace of the Holy Trinity, truly they are in ecstasy, an ecstasy having no end and, for us, impossible to imagine.
A passage from the First Letter of St. Peter reveals the reality behind this vision. St. Peter writes: “You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people He (God) claims for His own to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you from darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 1: 9f) All the ones claimed by God to be His – each one called by name – canonized or not – remembered by some – unnamed – known only to God – these, in turn, have claimed God as their Lord. They lived and rejoiced in God’s love on earth and they now witness that it is not only possible, it is right for you, for me to believe in God’s claim on us personally and to live that claim in faith here and now.
In this Mass we are given the privilege of receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and isn’t this most holy sacrament a very silent yet resounding proclamation that our God claims you, me for His own? And in our voluntary receiving of this Holy Eucharist are we not stating to the Lord “And I, Lord, claim You to be the God of my life”? Every act of receiving the Holy Eucharist is a confirmation of personal belief and a deepening of the most important, most essential relationship we will ever have.
As we leave this church today you/I can honestly say, “God has again graciously proclaimed His claim on me and I, in turn, have again renewed it in my heart and soul. It seems to me that there are at least three sets of verbs that describe our experience today; they are: claimed and claiming, desired and desiring, longed for and longing. They speak of the mystery of our God’s love and the response of a sincere Christian, of a saint-in-the-making, hopefully our response.
In the Letter to the Hebrews (12: 29), the author, in a brief sentence, proclaims something of God’s love; he writes: “Our God is a consuming fire!” This divine consuming fire does not annihilate, rather this fire transforms, purifies, drawing us into a love that exceeds anything we could ever comprehend in this life. St. John in his letter writes of this: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are…Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”
One day we hope to join with our holy brothers and sisters who have completed the journey of faith, who have lived God’s claim on them. For us still on the journey, our acceptance of God’s desire for us demands more than receiving the Holy Eucharist, even if that reception be every day.
On a mountain, like Moses, Jesus seated with His disciples gathered around gave us the way of living as the sons, the daughters God desires us to be. The way has come to be known as “The Beatitudes.” Unlike the Ten Commandments which, for the most part, call us to a very basic Christian life, the Beatitudes have no limit. For example, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy” – there is no limit, there is no room left to say, “I have been merciful enough!” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” – the peacemaker, the true child of God does not have the right to decide when it is not for us.
God’s gracious claim on us is never revoked, once given it stands forever as far as God is concerned. On our part, we can refuse to live as His own, we can sin against it and diminish its effects in us, we can accept it halfheartedly because we fear it will demand too much and with all that, the repeated refrain of Psalm 136 never loses its force: ‘His love endures forever” – the “Consuming Fire” cannot be extinguished by anyone. God’s claiming, desiring, longing for you, for me simply IS, HAS BEEN AND WILL BE!
Our responsorial today was a rather poignant one: “Lord, this is the people that longs to see Your face.” We chanted that prayer with reverence and rather easily. What if we changed it to say, “Lord, I am the one that longs to see Your face!” A question might come: “Do I see myself as one who longs to see His Face?” Is this really descriptive of you, me,– of our actual life of faith?
I believe it can be said: “God, our God, desires, longs for you, for me to say, “Lord, I long to see Your face.” Pope Francis spoke about God weeping; I would like to believe that God smiles, rejoices at our longing for Him! Wouldn’t you?