‘Family Time’

I don’t know about the rest of you but I always look at the Solemnity of All Saints as the winding down of the ‘School of Discipleship’ – Ordinary Time; only four more Sundays and then its Advent. We have Thanksgiving coming up in just four Thursdays. We are coming very close to the most ‘family oriented’ of times – Christmas.  I can almost feel the additional pounds just waiting for me.

But if we look closely, Holy Mother Church starts ‘family time’ today and tomorrow. The Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls) tomorrow are intense celebrations of our Christian family.

Solemnity of All Saints.
Today we look to heaven, to those of our family who have triumphed in their journey and made it home – the saints.  They have lived a life in pursuit of God’s design. They have taken the words of Christ proclaimed in the gospel today as meat to live on, and the Ten Commandments as guideposts to lead them.  They weren’t always perfect, they struggled and they were tempted and every so often failed; but they continued to offer themselves to the Father through Christ. Or as Dr. Peter Kreeft writes: ‘The saints, too, had wandering minds. The saints, too, had constantly to recall their constantly wandering mind-child home. They became saints because they continued to go after the little wanderer, like the Good Shepherd.[1] They knew who they were and who they needed for strength and help. They overcame their weaknesses by submitting to the mercy of God and receptive to His will.

Their lives are something we should always and everywhere reflect upon. Saint John Paul the Great wrote: ‘All the saints have ever been, and are, poor in spirit, meek, afflicted, hungry and thirsty for justice, merciful, pure of heart, peacemakers, persecuted because of the Gospel. They have been these things in varying degrees. We have to be like them. “God’s will” is our sanctification.[2] They are our big brothers and sisters who, by their examples and prayers, will help us home. They are the ones we should look to for intercession and guidance.

Our celebration today of All Saints isn’t really for them, they don’t need our praise. St. Bernard in a homily said: ‘The Saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs…. But I tell you when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.[3]  It is a celebration to remind us of their value in our lives as example and help. St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote: ‘Saints spend their lives in this world loving God and other people, imitating Jesus Christ who “went about doing good.” And when they get to heaven, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (no. 2683), they “constantly care for those whom they have left on earth… Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.[4]

All Souls
But this is not the only dynamic in this family of ours.  We are guided and helped by our big brothers and sisters; but, as in any family we are responsible for each other. Tomorrow, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls) is where we take these gifts we have received and pass them on.  We are called to help those around us. It is easy to see the need among our living family members; but what of those who have preceded us from this part of the journey?  Do they need our help? Most likely.  Obviously, if a soul is in hell then no prayer can help; if a soul is in heaven then no prayer is needed; but a soul in purgatory can be helped by our intercession. How do we know who of our departed family needs help? Let’s pray for them all. In 2nd Timothy St. Paul writes about his recently deceased friend Onesiphorus, who was a model christian: ‘may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.’[5] As Christians we are commanded, and as family we are obligated through love, to help each other; and for our departed that is through prayer – let’s pray for them all.

Brothers and sisters, I can’t help but wonder about the day of my judgement when Christ asks me about how I helped our family.  I have this picture in my mind that behind Him will be our big brothers and sisters eagerly waiting to see if I lived up to their example. Will they be proud of me?

———————————————————————————————————————

[1] Dr. Peter Kreeft, Prayer for Beginners
[2] Prayers and Devotions 365 Meditations
[3] Disc 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff
[4] http://www.josemariaescriva.info/article/the-intercession-of-the-saints
[5] 2 Tim 1:18

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