a group of diligent lay Christians who minister to children with
physical handicaps. They provide opportunities for summer camp,
field trips, classes, periodic worship services and Masses. They
have a newsletter which they e-mail to a list of benefactors and
people interested in their ministry. It’s in the form of a
letter and begins, “Dear Saints.” I squirm a bit whenever I
receive that salutation from them. They may be saints; but me?
It’s too soon!
But the title “saints” was used in the early church to describe
those called and in covenant with God through Christ. The church
has an elaborate and careful process to determine whom we
officially call “Saints.” (On October 14, 2018, Archbishop Oscar
Romero and Pope Paul VI were canonized in Rome.) Many of these
we incorporate into our liturgical calendar. But even as we
venerate certain “acknowledged” Saints, let’s not dismiss our
own identity and dignity received through, what the Book of
Revelation describes as, “the Blood of the Lamb ” – the life,
death and resurrection of Christ. His risen life blood flows in
our veins and so we can truthfully call each other “saints.” In
doing so we would not be claiming anything we have done or
deserve for ourselves, but have received through the gift of
grace. We have been called to holiness by God and are given the
gifts we need to live holy, sainted lives.
If there is one biblical book even regular readers of the
Scriptures tend to avoid, it is the Book of Revelation. Someone
said, “It’s so bizarre! Who can understand those hallucinatory
images and strange creatures?” Even today’s reading from
Revelation has strange details that could confuse the modern
reader’s need for literal exactness.
As a teenager at Mass on this feast I would be stopped dead in
my tracks by what seemed an obvious absurdity. How could those
wearing robes get them white by washing them “in the Blood of
the Lamb?” Wouldn’t that turn them red? I couldn’t get my mind
around that image and figured, I’d leave the interpretation to
some Bible scholars. I should have reflected on this reading not
as a high school student in a physics class, but as a reflective
reader in English Literature 101, because the Book of Revelation
is apocalyptic literature and has more in common with poetry
Towards the end of the first century Christians were under the
severe persecution of Domitian and were tempted to feel
abandoned by God. In his poetic style the author tells them –
“Quite the contrary.” This vision is a promise of future glory
for those who remain faithful to the Lamb. Glory isn’t only a
future reward, but even now we share in God’s holiness through
Jesus Christ. “Dear Saints” might well be the perfect
appellation for those of us gathered in worship today; so saints
we are, because we are held “dear” by our God. Our baptismal
robes are made white by the life force of Jesus, his blood, at
work in our lives.
I like this grammar school story. A religion teacher asked her
second-grade class, “What’s a saint?” A little girl, probably
remembering the stained glass images in her parish church
responded, “Saints are the people the light shines through.” The
big or “public lights” are up there in the church windows. Their
light shines through in a rainbow of colors. Their biographies
tell us that no two were the same. You can say: there are no
identical twins in God’s house. Each shone their unique light in
one or many dark places in the world.
Because their light has been so brilliant, we raise them up for
all to see so that the rest of us can be enlightened and have
hope. If God could shine such light through Mary, Joseph,
Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Francis and Clare, then God can do
that even in us! Keep us: strong in times of trials and doubts;
courageous when challenged; compassionate to the broken; wise
for those who are searching; outspoken when others hold a
fearful silence; anonymous in performing loving deeds;
persevering when struggles will not just evaporate; defending
justice when the world ignores or presses down those on the
margins; gentle and strong in the face of what opposes the
Where did I get that list of saintly virtues? I grant that it is
incomplete, but I came up with it when I reflected on the lives
of my favorite Saints – like the ones I named above. They are
the “Big S” – Saints. But I also reflected on the “little s”
saints I have known and loved and frequently felt in awe of.
They remind me what is possible in my small, particular, daily
life. I am sure that you have your favorites and are able to
draw up your own list of the virtues that make a saint. When you
make your own list you will find it parallels what Jesus
enumerated in today’s gospel – the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes aren’t a list of commandments we have to live by
if we want to follow Jesus. Instead, they show how we can live
when the source of our life is Jesus. Because of him we are
“Blessed,” our lives reflect a profound change in us, the result
of his grace, which enables us to be: poor in spirit, gentle,
merciful, peacemakers, etc.
In our second reading, John puts it another way “... we are
God’s children now.” This feast is about Now; about our union
with one another and the great “cloud of witnesses” who have
preceded us. Today’s feast reminds us of those who are now
gazing on God’s brilliance and that we are in communion with
them through our prayers and memory. And, because of their
lives, we can have hope for our own!
My four-year old grandniece gave me a drawing she made of me.
Uncle Jude, this is for you.” The simple pencil-stick work of
art made me look good, with a round warm face, wide-open eyes, a
huge smile, listening ears and outstretched arms. (She even
filled in my bald spots!) A psychologist would say, “That’s a
drawing of a healthy and secure child.” I would add that my
little niece has a touching and wonderful view of who I am to
her right now. I would also say, she’s drawing me as God sees me
– graced – the fruit of God’s handiwork.
The next time I get that “Dear Saints” e-mail, instead of
squirming, I’m going to say, “Right On!” – because God’s grace
is already at work in me and God isn’t going to give up on me
until I get to my proper home. There, someday, I’m going to meet
all the stained glass Saints in the flesh. I’m also going to
meet all the others – no-less-holy, saints, “the great multitude
which no one can count.” We are already the saints of God, not
because we have earned a great reward or have gone through life
unblemished by sin, but because of the mercy of God manifested
in Jesus. “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the
throne and from the Lamb.” When Paul addressed the Christians as
the saints in his epistles, he was not only talking about their
future glory, but their present status.
for a link to this Holy Day's readings:
Rev. 7: 2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; I
John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. “Faith Book” is also brief enough to be
posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s reading from Revelation:
After this I
had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
teacher asked her second-grade class, “What’s a saint?” A little
girl, probably remembering the stained glass images in her parish
church, responded, “Saints are the people the light shines through.”
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system.
Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of
them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like,
tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, “People
of Faith Against the Death Penalty.” If the inmate responds you
might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
Haselden #0561943 (On death row since 9/6/01)
Watts #0428143 (7/19/01)
Bell #0592461 (8/24/01)
Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the
Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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Impressions” is a service to preachers and those wishing to
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