There are some who seem to have been born saints. They occasionally come to relative perfection in a short time and leave prematurely having blazed a trail through their short lives. People like St. Therese or St. Bernadette. Others live long lives of Christian toil and die full of faith and good works. People like Mother Teresa, Edmund Rice and countless Christian men and women whom we know of. They leave an example of Christian living, a particular insight into Christian virtue, an organisation to continue their work sometimes, and invariably, a legacy of sound teaching or good advice.
There are others who lose their way and manage to find it again, like Matt Talbot. These people make a radical and dramatic break with their past and rediscover the riches of faith they once were offered and which they had passed over in favour of the pleasures of this world.
There are others still who discover Christ and make a dramatic commitment to the Gospel, like St Augustine or St. Paul. These people progress somewhat quickly and become zealous in their pursuit of virtue and holiness, seeing the faith with the eyes of the convert rather than the tired perceptions of the cradle catholic.
For most of us, though, the Christian life and the struggle for holiness is a long slow struggle, maintained through failure and through forgiveness, and kept alive by God’s grace. Cardinal Newman said that to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often. Change is difficult and sometimes painful, especially when it is not voluntary, but change and development and growth in maturity is the path of holiness. Suffering may also form a greater or lesser part in our growth as we are purified and chastened and learn to choose our priorities.
The celebration of the saints reminds us of the nature of true holiness and its many charisms. It can awaken in us the desire to imitate them in their following of Christ. It may recall us to a holiness which is wholesome and real, and call us to purity of heart. It may awaken in us a desire to be with them in the fulfillment and reward promised to the faithful, the eternal togetherness we name the communion of saints.
When we remember our dead, reminded as we are, by nature, of the mortality of all living things, we speak the language of eternity. Though the bright light of long summer days may give way to the fall of darkness, the warmth of the sun to the bitter bite of frost, and the growth of spring and summer to winter decay, we know and believe that the flower of life is kept safe within the seed, to blossom again in the resurrection of nature. Likewise we believe in the resurrection of the faithful dead. As we say in the Creed, we believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. The faithful dead form a family who continue to intercede for us, who prepare to welcome us, and who await us. We believe that the communion we share this morning and have shared here on earth will be brought to its completion and fulfillment in the presence of God. Communion means ‘union with’. We are in union with Christ and with each other in the sacrament. We include our faithful deceased in this togetherness