By Fr. Dylan James.
Mt 5:1-12; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Rev 7:2-4.9-14
Today we keep the feast of ‘All Saints’.
Now, as it happens, lots of people in the parish seem to think I’m a saint. People OFTEN say to me, “Father, you’re so holy”.
This, obviously, is very nice. However, what I’ve gradually realised is that this statement almost invariably is rooted in a FALSE view of what a saint is:
People, or some people, think I’m holy because they have a mistaken view of what holiness consists of.
What people ACTUALLY mean is, words to the effect of, “Father, you say Mass very precisely, with great attention, clearly aiming to talk to God. You’re reverent”.
The point I want to make to you today is that there is a difference between being reverent and being holy, being a saint. Reverence is a good thing, and important thing, a vital tool TOWARDS holiness, but holiness itself is something else.
Let me shift focus for a moment and consider I question I have put to you before:
What is the MEASURE of holiness?
If God was to line up all the people in parish, and evaluate the level of holiness of each one of us, the degree to which each one of us is or isn’t a saint, WHAT would be His measuring CRITERIA?
When I was a teenager I thought there was some complex measuring scheme: 35% humility, 12% prudence, 17% faith, 23% generosity etc.
However, when I went off to study theology, to look at truly complicated things, I learnt that God’s measuring tool is simple: LOVE.
The measure of merit of a good deed is the degree of love that it is, or isn’t, done with.
And, The measure of holiness of a person is the degree that love is, or isn’t, present in him.
Or, to put it another way, ‘holiness’ consists of being God-like, and “God is love”(1 Jn 4:8).
This is why the Lord Jesus says that the greatest commandment is the twofold command to LOVE God and our neighbour.
Let me add an important practical conclusion that follows from this:
love is something that EACH and every one of us here is capable of.
This means that, each and every one of us can be a saint.
Each and every person here can love in whatever state of life we are in.
Each of us can love God by praying to Him,
and of course this includes reverently attending Sunday Mass, attending the form of worship He established in His Church.
And, each of us can love our neighbour,
by living a life that is more focused on his or her needs than on mine.
There are true and false ways to love, but at root love is not complicated!
And with love comes JOY -the saints are not sad; heaven is a place of joy; and the joy in the heart of the Triune God is inseparable from the love there.
So, to conclude, is Father Dylan a saint? Is he holy?
The answer to this question lies simply in how loving I am.
It is possible for me to say Mass very precisely, but without love.
But I can also say Mass lovingly, and draw the graces from the Mass that can enable me to be stronger, and to love more fully.
Today’s feast, when we recall ALL the saints in heaven, reminds us that saints are called from every walk of life: mums, dads, bus drivers, accountants, and more.
It is love that defines a saint. It is love that measures a saint.
And the saints in heaven are saints for the simple reason that they loved, and still love, in heaven.