All Saints Homily from Fr Ronald

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Sunday, 1st November 2020  - All Saints Day

 

All saints day is a feast of the church that encourages us to think about heaven and all who are now enjoying it through the free gift of God’s grace. 

 

Heaven is a communion of perfect life and perfect love, the fulfilment of our deepest human longings, our supreme and definitive happiness.

 

Heaven, though, can seem unattainable, distant or wishful thinking even and if we think like this then we don’t tend to think of it as a realistic reality for us.  

 

There are many voices in our world – both inside and outside of the church – that want to instruct us on how we might secure our place in heaven. Unfortunately much of this instruction is cloaked in ideology and often calls on others to measure up and keep to strict codes or else they’ll be damned – exactly the sort of attitudes Jesus challenged.  

 

Worse still, is the gaining of conformity through the coercion and the control of others which we’ve seen manifested in unspeakable ways.

 

I’m convinced entirely that there are saints in heaven today that never set foot inside a church and perhaps never registered any kind of interest in religion. 

 

We’ll know many of these people first hand – wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, parents, children, wider relatives,  friends and work colleagues. People we know who led good lives, who were good people and lived in a way pleasing to God – kingdom people. Whether they realised it or not, we know that these people were displaying the spiritual attitudes which Jesus teaches us today in the beatitudes. 

 

If we turn our faith into a tick box exercise, then we’re missing the point. If we focus on our narrow outlook and try to box God in, we’re trying to control him and to get him to play by our rules. But he can’t be boxed in, he doesn’t conform to our narrow rules and he tells us as much in the scriptures: ‘my ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts.’ 

 

 

   

 

Jesus does of course teach and guide us and wants us to follow him. But his way is not a militant, tick box regime. He’s not standing there with a clipboard checking that we’ve jumped through a particular set of hoops. 

 

He wants us to be kingdom people – to belong to his kingdom – to belong to it today and then experience it in its fullness in heaven.

 

Jesus does set the conditions for belonging to the kingdom and that can make us groan – conditions- that’s just more rules. But look at these conditions, these ‘rules’ if you like of Jesus – to be gentle, to be meek, to be merciful, to thirst for justice, to be peacemakers. We can adopt these attitudes immediately and we can be confident that God sees this – it’s not a matter of gaining any human approval. 

 

In following these conditions we may be persecuted in a certain way – perhaps from those who feel that we’re not defending our faith enough or using enough condemnatory language towards other groups in society. Unfortunately such attacks often come from those who are themselves insecure in their faith and so need to project hardline attitudes and create a sort of siege mentality around their faith. It’s an infantile view which doesn’t adhere to any of the spiritual attitudes that Jesus us asks us to adopt today. 

 

And with that in mind, I would make a plea to you today to be careful of online content and commentators that proclaim to speak for the church or the true Catholic faith in a definitive way but has a narrative that seeks to separate.  

 

Much of this content is promoting an ideology - in an extremely subtle way -  of other religions and society as bad, and Catholics as good. What such websites tend to do is pick out only negative stories from another group and imply that this is the complete picture and the whole story of this group.  

 

Does a bad priest, parent or teacher mean complete condemnation for the entire church, every family or every school? Of course not, and this is how we must view news items that appear to totally condemn the whole based on the actions of the few. 

 

Any website or Facebook page that makes links between a whole religion and religious extremism and uses quite militant language about the need to defend our faith should be treated with extreme caution. Because it’s polarising, it’s divisive and it’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

 

Thankfully, there is also a lot of good online content related to our faith. It’s important to always have an enquiring and questioning mind when we’re digesting such information and it’s always helpful to ask ourselves when reading: 

Is this building up the kingdom?  Is it promoting peace and mercy, respect and understanding? Is it looking to build bridges? 

 

We all know that terrorism, extremism and the killing of others is wrong, we know that there is government policy which at times challenge our beliefs, and we must be willing to speak out about this, but we must also be honest enough to ask ourselves if we challenge in a way that is likely to lead to a building up of the kingdom or if our words and rhetoric create further divisions and mistrust between ourselves and other religions and between secular groups and communities. 

 

Let us ask Jesus today and everyday for the spiritual attitudes that will help us all to continue to be active members of his Kingdom here on earth, to continue to build it up and look forward to enjoying it in its fullness with all the saints in heaven.