Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for All Saints’ Day Year A 2020 at Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Rouse Hill
Readings: Apoc 7:2-14; 1John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
1 November 2020
Called to live universal holiness
Dear sisters and brothers,
Today, we join with the whole Church in celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints, both those officially canonised as well as the multitudes who – as the Book of Revelations says – “have been washed by the blood of the Lamb”. We give thanks to God for the witness of their lives even if they were cut short by violence, tragedy or persecution. They taught us that Christian sanctity is possible no matter what our walk of life is and what circumstances we find ourselves. Sainthood consists not so much in doing the extraordinary feats as living ordinary lives with extraordinary spirit.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of our first Australian saint. We honour Mary MacKillop who embodied characteristics that typify the best of the Australian spirit. There is that sense of ‘going in to bat’ for the battlers of life, to give a helping hand to the needy irrespective of colour, culture or creed. It is that sense of a ‘fair go for everyone’. It was the genius of Mary that in seeing Christ in every person, she advocated for the dignity and worth of every person, especially the least, the last and the neglected. She saw the image of God in every person and saw that each had an eternal inheritance. We realise more and more the need for people to stand up for the lives and dignity of the needy, defenceless and vulnerable. The legacy of Mary MacKillop stands as a blazing light of hope in our fractured and fractious world.
Scriptures today challenge us to live life to the full by a discipleship marked with courage, passion and purpose. We are inspired by examples like that of Mary MacKillop to live life to the full, to make good every opportunity and to use our gifts in service of the Kingdom. Christian discipleship is not about protecting one’s status quo, interests and security at all costs. Rather, it is more about our generous and faithful response to the call to follow Christ and make a positive difference to others.
On this day, we are reminded of the purpose of this journey in this world and the great destiny in the world to come. The Book of Revelation tells us that the saints have won the victory over the forces of evil and darkness. They have been through the great persecution, which is a metaphor for faithful discipleship. They have shared in God’s creative and redemptive work of making a new heaven and a new earth. Thus, sainthood is not a mere afterlife reward and utopia is not a mere self-centred bliss. It is an active participation in God’s vision for humanity and all creation. As Christians, we are called to share in that vision and to bring it to fulfilment in this world.
The Gospel gives us the summary of Jesus’ teachings in what is called the beatitudes. On the face of it, they seem more like curses than blessings. They seem to be a contradiction in term. The poor are the rich; the weeping are the rejoicing; the gentle are the strong; the persecuted are the privileged. The value system of Jesus upsets and turns upside down the value system of the empire.
Jesus echoes a world turned upside down that Mary sings in the Magnificat: the lowly raised and the mighty cast down, the hungry filled and the rich empty-handed. These are the people God notices and blesses.
Jesus teaches us that happiness does not reside in possessions, successes or achievements. Real happiness resides in a heart open to loving, to giving, to caring, to enhancing the lives of others even to the point of dying for the ones we love. Jesus invites us to find this kind of happiness through a life of witness, service and solidarity.
The Word of God today invites us to greater, deeper, more faithful, generous and courageous discipleship. It has little to do with doing the minimum and fulfilling the letter of the law. Instead, it has everything to do with taking risks and living with enthusiasm and commitment. The call to holiness is the call to greater justice, love and service. The teaching and example of Jesus inspire us to take a stand for the weak, vulnerable and marginalised.
Let us pray that we have the courage to live our discipleship without counting the costs. May the teaching and example of Jesus guide us as we endeavour to build relationships and communities that mirror the Reign of God. May we be inspired and strengthened by the example of Our Lady and the saints in following the footsteps of Christ faithfully so that we too inherit the Kingdom where we see God face to face.