November 1 – All Saints
I know that many of you are fond devotees of watching the Academy Awards usually in March, when Hollywood celebrates the best of the best. I have to admit I do not share your enthusiasm. Once I reluctantly attend a party at the home of parishioners at a former parish to watch the Oscars. After a half hour I went back to the snack table, grabbed another piece of pizza, and snuck out. The next morning on my desk was a little plastic Oscar statue with the note: “best escape artist!” I will have to admit that the Oscars are indeed a celebration. The red carpet is rolled out. The stars arrive in limousines. They anxiously and eagerly await, along with millions of television viewers, the announcements of who will take home the coveted Oscar awards. All the recipients, whether they are directors or producers, actors or actresses, are greeted by thunderous applause when the winner is announced. So goes Hollywood’s way of honoring its best.
As Catholics, we gather today to celebrate the lives of winners of another sort – all the saints in heaven. These holy people are the recipients of heaven’s reward, not Hollywood’s award. Two things about today’s celebration. First, the Book of Revelation states that there will be only 144,000 admitted to heaven. While a fundamentalist may believe this, do not despair that there may not be room for you. Scripture scholars agree that the number 144,000 represents an unlimited number, a number higher than is fathomable. God longs to give the reward of himself to any and all who will accept the gift. The second misconception we have about the saints is that we could never be one. The “any and all” who stand before God include people whose lives were not that different from our lives. Many of the saints were at one time impatient or crabby, arrogant or lazy. They knew both sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. It is said that “saints are sinners who kept on trying.” They kept on trying by turning to Jesus for direction. Jesus gave the saints, and gives all of us, a red carpet path to follow – the Beatitudes. Over and over the Beatitudes tell us who is blessed and who is best: the poor, the sorrowing, the meek, the persecuted, the insulted. Was Jesus kidding? It sounds more like the “worst who are cursed” then the “best who are blessed.” But remember, it is not a Hollywood award ceremony Jesus is guiding us toward, but heaven’s everlasting reward ceremony. Jesus reminds us of this at the end of today’s gospel when he says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Today, we join the saints in their beautifully simple acceptance speech: Thanks and praise be to God!
Remember to vote this Tuesday, November 3rd, and have a blessed week!