Today is the feast of All Saints. This great feast reminds us that we are called to holiness – not just some of us – but all of us! At the second Vatican Council, the Bishops write in paragraph 40 of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity;(4*) by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”
In summary, this paragraph reminds us that we are called to be holy. We have been given gifts to advance our holiness and to help one another. Our cooperation with God has the power to transform the world. St. Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, said that our task is to help people, to become human, to become Christian and to become saints. Whatever role we play in life the call holiness is ours.
Our first reading today is taken from the Book of Revelation and it speaks of holiness. The author speaks of a vision/a dream he had, where he observes various things, hears various things and speaks with angels and elders. In his vision he hears conversations about the work of the angels and the number of people to be saved. He sees the people gathered around the throne of God and how they all act together in their posture and their words of praise. He hears of how they have suffered because of their love and service of God. This suffering in the service of their brothers and sisters has made a difference and it shapes who they are.
In the Gospel Matthew shares his version of the Beatitudes – 8 attitudes and behaviors that mark us as faithful disciples of Jesus. 8 attitudes that shape our relationship to God and to our brothers and sisters.
In the second reading John tells us about the love of God. He reminds us of how important it is to know Jesus. Without a relationship with Jesus our lives are empty and meaningless.
I am often asked, “Father why do we have to go to mass?” Depending on who asks the question I tell them, “You don’t have to!” Which usually causes a little shock!
We come to mass in response to an invite from God. An invite that is built into our bodies, our hearts, our spirits and our minds. It is there from the moment we are conceived because as you know we belong to God. God calls us to mass. We have the option of saying yes or no. We might ‘have to come’ because our parents say we have to, but as adults we come because Christ calls us here. Christ wants our response/our presence to be freely given.
How we prepare to respond to this invitation is important. Based on the scriptures today, I want to suggest a few things we can do to prepare for mass which will enable our response to bear fruit.
In many churches, before mass you will hear/see people praying the rosary or engaging in various devotions. In many churches the priest is hearing confessions. In fact, we should be focused on the mass, on what is about to take place. We should read and ponder the sacred texts we are about to hear. We ought to focus on God’s Word so that when it is proclaimed we hear it and because we have thought about it we let it shape our lives. We ask questions like, “what is God saying to me/us in this Word? What does God reveal about life? How am I/are we being invited to think about God, myself/ourselves, my/our brothers and sisters, the world in which I/we live? What do /weI need to change in my/our life?”
If we are able to – fast before mass. Let our body, our mind, our heart and spirit hunger for God. Let our body experience hunger/thirst as a sign of how empty we are without God and how much we long for God’s Kingdom.
God is revealed in people and in conversations – pay attention to those around us. Every time we come to mass we should try to encounter the people we are praying with/not just those we know. Several years ago, I was serving in a small parish and one of our members died. I was surprised by how few people came to the funeral. I asked some of the folks, why they did not come. They offered various responses, “I was too busy, not a family member, did not know her, don’t like funerals.” I said, “But she was in Church every Sunday.” They said, “Yeah, but I did not know her.” We need to meet and talk to the people we pray with. We need to know that we matter and we need to let others know that they matter. Can we love God and not care about the people standing next to us? Before we pray, we take time to meet the people who are around us.
When we arrive at the Church building we should prepare ourselves to change our attitude and our behavior. Today, Jesus sets out 8 attitudes and behaviors that mark us as disciples; we are called to praise God; we are called to know Jesus. As a disciple of Jesus what do I need to do so that my life is a little more like his.
When we do important things (meetings, rituals, jobs, work school), we prepare. Arriving on time for mass enables me to prepare for an encounter with God. For me, there are few things as important as an invitation from a God who longs to feed us with his Word, his Body and Blood and the presence of his brothers and sisters.
This week let us pause and examine how we prepare for mass. What needs to change so that I am ready to say yes when Jesus calls my name, now and at the Hour of Death?
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI