The Feast of All Saints Reflection
The other disciple also went into the tomb and saw the cloth which had covered Jesus head lying nearby, neatly folded….and he believed!
Why did he believe when he saw this cloth neatly folded? When someone left the dinner table, the napkin was tossed aside to show that they were finished and not returning. When it was neatly folded, it meant….I’m coming back!
In the Apostles’ Creed, each one of us affirms, “I believe in the Communion of the Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?”
This is a creedal statement; the Communion of Saints. Christians have shared it for two thousand years. It is recited down at Congregational Church, at the Presbyterian Church, at Episcopal Church…. the Communion of Saints, a community of all the people of God, living and dead.
In the Bible in the New Testament, people are called “saints” quite a bit. They name saints and communities of saints. They do it sixty-three times in the New Testament, and there is only one thing that is absolutely consistent: When the Bible and the New Testament speak of saints, the one thing all those people have in common is they are not dead.
They are all alive, no dead people, the saints in Corinth, the saints in Philippi, the saints in Ephesus, the saints in your local parish. A reminder, first of all, that we are called to be saints, and that our sainthood is already rooted in the victory of Jesus Christ over death.
So, we are all made saints already, by our baptism, by the Eucharist, by the redeeming love of Jesus. But somehow we have to catch up with our best selves of who we really are.
And the saints that we name include great giants from the past, such as St. Peter and Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Vincent de Paul, St Catherine of Siena, St. Clare of Assisi, the great Theresa’s of Avalon and Liseux and of Calcutta.
But they also include people much closer and dearer to us, in many cases, our parents, our friends, those who have been our inspiration on our own journeys.
The first thing that Jesus shows us is that our God, at a funeral, whether it is the letting go of a little infant who dies so soon or the sudden death in an accident, or a tragic suicide, or a lingering long illness, or the end of a rich old age, our God says, “There’s more. It does not end here.” Our God says, “I did not create you to end here. I created you to have life and have it in its fullness. There’s more. I’ coming back!”
The second thing that God does for us; Jesus teaches us this, and it is wrapped up in fancy words like “justification, salvation, redemption”; Jesus tells us that, from the first flaring forth of creation, our God is bringing us together, bringing us all together, the Communion of Saints, a community of God’s loved ones, which means we will meet again. A promise Jesus made from his own tomb.
And the third thing that Jesus teaches us, we have in our creeds. We talk about belief in the resurrection of the dead, belief in the resurrection of the body. That does not mean cadavers getting up and walking around.
It means God knows us by our first name and loves us and we are not going to lose our identity. It means when we meet again, we will know each other.
It means that our personal relationships, our friendships, our personality and our love will not disappear, but rather will blossom.
We do not have to come back in unfamiliar shapes and forms to work at it again (reincarnation). Nor will we vaporize and disappear into a blend and puree of an ongoing cosmic soup.
God knows us by our first name and loves us and we will rise again.
And so we can say to our beloved dead, especially on this weekend and through this month of November, “Until we meet again, remain in peace, faithful friends of God, and keep our love with you.
And for ourselves, in the present moment, let us not allow ourselves to spiritualise the message of Jesus, the blueprint for us, living now as the saints:
Blessed are the downtrodden, the worthless;
God’s Kingdom is indeed for them.
Blessed are the bereft;
they shall be given strength and comfort.
Blessed are the lowly, the exploited;
they shall enjoy their possessions in peace.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice;
they shall receive it.
Blessed are the merciful;
they shall share in God’s love.
Blessed are those who are committed;
they shall be filled with the glory of God.
Blessed are the peacemakers;
they shall be God’s heirs.
Blessed those who suffer in the struggle for justice.
God’s Kingdom is theirs already