November 1, 2018 – Solemnity of All Saints
The following is my homily for the Bishop Chatard school Mass, on this Solemnity of All Saints.
Today is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Church. There are only 5-6 non-Sunday obligation days per year and today – All Saints Day – is one of them. Why is that? I believe it is the Church’s way of reminding us, once a year, that holiness is possible. Sainthood is possible.
Can you think of a time that you wanted to do something that seemed impossible…and then you accomplished it? Despite your view that it was impossible, you made it possible.
When I traveled to Haiti a number of years ago, I remember standing at the base of a mountain. I looked through binoculars at a small chapel near the top of the mountain. I had been told that on one of the days of our trip, we would be celebrating Mass in that chapel. “Cool,” I said. “How long does it take to drive up there?”
The person I asked laughed. “Well,” he said. “We’ll drive for about an hour, then the road stops and it is a 2-hour hike on foot from there.”
There’s no way, I thought. Then I listed excuses in my head: It is WAY too steep. I was in terrible physical shape. I was not equipped with proper clothing and gear for that type of a hike. And on and on – I had many excuses.
However, the desire to celebrate Mass in that chapel motivated me. I prepared myself mentally. I hydrated. Most importantly, I devised a plan. I would break the hike into manageable chunks: I can make it that far and rest, then that far, and then that far, etc.
It was the most physically challenging thing I had ever done, but I did it. The impossible was made possible – by my own will and my own choices.
Mrs. Wagner ran ten marathons between the ages of 40 and 50. When she started running, she could not make it around the block without stopping. The idea of running a marathon was beyond her wildest dreams. It was an impossible task, but she wanted it. One time around the block, then a mile, then two miles, then five miles – eventually 26.2 miles. She broke it up into manageable chunks. Her desire, strong will, and choices made it possible.
That is why the Church continues to remind us each year that sainthood is possible. Holiness is possible if that is our will and we make the decision to pursue it.
No man or women canonized a saint was ever born holier that you.
Most of us have bought into the myth that holiness is beyond us; it is too difficult to attain; it is impossible.
What if we approached holiness like my mountain in Haiti – in chunks. If we cannot live out holiness every minute of every day, can we perform one holy act? And if we can perform one holy act on one day, can we perform two? Perhaps it becomes a habit over time and we are formed as holy people.
In the Gospel, we heard the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus gave us instructions for achieving holiness: Be merciful. Be meek. Be peaceful.
Bishop Robert Barron added to these beatitudes recently when he said: “The sure sign that God is alive in you is joy.”
We can choose to be merciful, to be meek, and to be peaceful. We can choose to be joyful.
The Church holds up saints as examples of men and women who lived holy lives. However, none of them were born holier than you. They stumbled and fell on their journey of life, just as we do. However, in the long run, they made the decision to perform holy acts as part of their everyday life. To live for God and for others.
It didn’t happen overnight for the saints, and it doesn’t need to happen overnight for you.
What holy act can you perform today? Tomorrow can you challenge yourself to perform two holy acts? Where could you go from there?
Holiness is possible.
It is your decision.