Tuesday, November 1, 2016

WE CHOOSE OUR ETERNITY: a homily for the Feast of All Saints

You can also hear this sermon here. I changed and added as I preached so they're not identical.

It is not for nothing that traditionally the altar was raised above the nave of the church by three or more steps.   These symbolise the holy mountain of God, the heights from which He rules.  But where at Sinai the people were forbidden to approach the holy mountain with the Incarnation God has come close to us in Christ and we are invited to draw near to Him and be absolved of our sins, be healed by His teaching, and fed with His Body and Blood.  To approach Christ we must therefore ascend from where we are in our sins to where He is in His holiness.  By our own power we cannot do this but by His power we cannot fail.
Today we remember all the saints of the Church both those canonised and those who are not.  Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of All Souls when we pray for the dead, the brothers and sisters who have gone before us and are being sanctified in Purgatory.   One hears so little about the reality of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory yet the Church has not changed her teaching in any way.  There is a false teaching that we are all, or most of us anyway, going to Heaven.  That is not the teaching of Christ and His Church.  We are all invited to Heaven through Faith in Him and membership of His Body the Catholic Church but we must choose that path by what we believe and how we behave.   After all why pray for the dead if everyone goes to Heaven anyway?
Do you want to know how to get to Heaven?  Go by the narrow gate and the hard path of faith in Christ and a life of virtue, empowered by God’s grace, aided by the Saraments.  The Lord lays out the path in the Beatitudes.  The “poor in spirit” are blessed because they know their need of God’s grace.  “They who mourn” are not the bereaved but those who grieve over their sins and failings, begging God for mercy. “The meek” are those who for Christ’s sake reject violence and intimidation, but instead gently and firmly stand their ground for justice.  “They who hunger and thirst for righteousness” are those who long to be holy, to live lives pleasing to God for to be without holiness is to spiritually starve, to have a soul that is parched and without life.  “The merciful” are those who take the Gospel seriously, proclaim it by their words and actions and extend to others the mercy they have received from God.  Remember always that before God you are a beggar and homeless while you are not in Heaven.  The “clean of heart” are those who have rejected the idolatry of sin: pride, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, sloth, and greed and instead have worshipped God alone by a holy life.  “The peacemakers” are those who make every effort to reconcile people to God and His Church for true peace is communion with the Lord.  If we are faithful to Christ we can expect to be “persecuted for the sake of righteousness” because we are involved in a spiritual war and soldiers get shot at and bombed. The saints before us endured the same insults, persecution and every kind of evil lie was told about them.  This is the path to Heaven, the narrow gate and the hard path of the pursuit of virtue.  Yet this path leads to eternal peace, joy and glory.  Any other way leads to the horror of Hell.
It is the clear teaching of Scripture and the Church that not all are saved.  Many of the saints go further and say that few are saved.  Few!  Our time here on Earth is a time of CHOICE.  We must choose between Heaven and Hell, between God’s way and our own.  The saints made a clear choice.  For all of them that choice of faith in Christ brought suffering in this life but joy in the next.  There is no cheap, easy way into heaven and no back door either.  The saints went straight to Heaven upon their deaths and even if we must go by means of the terrible suffering of purgatory we must choose that way, we must seek Heaven as our goal though we struggle on our journey.
Purgatory is Heaven’s doorstep where the just are purified of their imperfections.  They suffer what the damned suffer but for a limited time.  Each moment they draw closer to Paradise but have no knowledge of how long they must wait.  In purgatory they are made ready for the glories of Heaven.  We can shorten their time there and our own by aiding them with our prayers and sacrifices.  The damned in Hell we cannot help and they don’t want our help anyway.  They long to see God even if only for a moment but will not for a moment admit their sinfulness or God’s Justice nor would they ever ask for mercy.   In their lives here they made choices and ultimately they made the choice for Hell.  The damned in Hell are there because they choose to be there.
You and I must also choose so let us choose Heaven.  We choose Heaven by believing in Jesus Christ as God made man and in His Holy Catholic Church and all that she teaches, by forgiving those who hurt us, by loving and caring for those around us especially the poor and choosing God’s will in all things over our own.

This feast of All Saints is a reminder to us that sanctity is possible for everyone, in any legitimate walk of life.  The way is narrow and it is hard but not unbearable.  It is the way of faith in Christ and life of virtue, of seeking to be truly good.  We can only do it with the help of God’s grace available to us in the Sacraments especially Confession and Communion.  If you want to be a real success ask the Lord to make you a saint!  If you want a truly happy life ask the Lord to make you a saint!  If you want to live forever with God be a saint!

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