FEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS 2020
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Pro-Cathedral, 1st November 220
“This morning we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. We recall all those who have authentically lived the Christian life over the centuries. They now live with the Lord in eternal happiness and peace. The example of their holiness encourages us in our Christian lives.
What do we mean by holiness? We find the answer to this question in the reading we have just heard: the Gospel of the Beatitudes. The beatitudes are Good News. They are Gospel. The Beatitudes lead us to comprehend the God that Jesus came to reveal. The Beatitudes teach us about God.
Where do we encounter holiness today? What does it mean for us to seek to be holy? Through canonization, the Church seeks out some who become models for us of what holiness means. Holiness however is not something that is just institutionalised. Holiness is within the reach of each of us. Think of the Venerable Matt Talbot, who was baptized in this Pro-Cathedral and lived a deep spiritual life as a humble worker in this area of Dublin at a time when this part of Dublin was at its poorest. He lived the life of a poor worker, yet his spiritual director called him the holiest man in Dublin.
We encounter holiness not in special categories of Christians. The Second Vatican Council spoke about a “universal call to holiness.” We are all called to holiness. Holiness is not about retreating into holy places or holy postures. Holiness is found and cultivated in the realities of life.
When we talk of the Communion of Saints we speak about the link with those who have gone before us, but the doctrine of the Communion of the Saints also demands that we look towards those who are beside us today. The doctrine of the Communion of Saints demands that we become saints to those around us – our children, our spouses, our community, our society, the marginalized and the rejected – showing what it really means to be the Church, what it means to live and witness to the love and the mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Authentic holiness is what constitutes the Church. Within the Church of Jesus Christ, however, there are those whose lives constitute counter witness. The holiness of the Church is tarnished when its members fail in holiness. When I say fail in holiness, I am not thinking just of those who loose contact with prayer and the sacraments and whose lives drift away from belief.
I think also of how throughout its history the Church has often fallen into a collective blindness about the culture it allowed itself to embrace and thus compromise the authenticity of the Christian message. The Church as an institution and the Church in its institutions has too often failed in its responsibilities of reflecting the love of Jesus Christ and has failed those entrusted to its care.
I constantly recall the comment of Pope Francis to the Irish Bishops at the conclusion of his visit to Dublin: “Do not repeat the attitudes of aloofness and clericalism that at times in your history have given the real image of an authoritarian, harsh and autocratic Church”.
Indeed there is a sense in which harshness became an over dominant thread in Church-run institutions, whereas the message of Jesus is always a message of respect and care and love especially of the most marginalised. Where such harshness is not discerned and exposed, generations of victims will bear the results and the genuine witness of others in the Church will be compromised.
The Christian message is one that liberates and enhances all those who suffer burdens. Too often today, I encounter people who have been trapped into insecurity in their own faith life and become trapped in a fearful and scrupulous understanding of God and of the Church. They then easily become highly judgemental and uncaring.
The doctrine of the Communion of Saints teaches us to look at our Christian calling in a different way. The Saints were no different to us. The Saints were marked by the same weaknesses, temptations, and frustrations that are the marks of any of us. The Saints realised however that they formed a communion with the God whose characteristics are mercy and forgiveness. In a communion of prayer with the God of mercy they formed an attitude of humility and openness to the gift of authentic charity.
Jesus shows us the way. Through his teaching and life he shows us what it means to be merciful, pure in heart and to work for peace. The way to holiness is the way that was led by Jesus Christ himself.
The Lord guided the hands of the Saints and God’s mercy accompanied them on their journey as they became closer and closer to him. We entrust our lives to their intercession knowing that the mercy of Jesus will protect us and liberate us and hold us in his powerful hand through all the ups and downs of life and will every day restore loving authenticity to our lives and to the life of the Church of Jesus Christ.”