Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Our worship must be an authentic and total gift of self in the spirit of the Beatitudes

All Saints Day

Nov 1 2010

The Spirit of the Liturgy

Today is part of what we might call a great cosmic convergence, at least for our nation. Yesterday was both Hallowe’en, and, for Protestants, what they call Reformation Sunday, the anniversary of the great religious revolution that split off northern Europe from its Catholic culture and teachings, and brought on hundreds of years of religious wars. Tomorrow is both the Day of the Dead–the Festival of the Souls in Purgatory–and election day. Today is the center, the Festival of all Saints, all the souls in union with God who are not on the Calendar. Ironically, despite our evident and increasing need for prayer and the Holy Sacrifice, because yesterday was a Sunday in the US this isn’t a holy day of obligation.

Let me explain to those of you who are not customarily at Monday evening Mass that this is one of a series of homilies that will lead up to the changes in our Mass set for the end of next year. As my unifying text I am using the book The Spirit of the Liturgy, written by our Holy Father before he was elected Pope. I encourage you to read that book, and, if you feel called, to come when you can to this Monday evening celebration.

Today’s Gospel is, as Archbishop Chacour of the Holy Land says it, a program for life. The Holy Father teaches that “Peace in the universe through peace with God, the union of above and below. . .is how we can describe the essential intention of worship.” (35) But for that worship to be authentic, more than lip syncing to holy words, it must involve “the only real gift man should give to God.” It must involve our total gift of self.

Thus the Beatitudes. Jesus Christ was blessed above all because He followed and laid down this pattern of life. Those who followed Him are blessed because they imitated this pattern of life. He was poor in every way–poor in possessions, poor in power. He even had such poor friends that they abandoned Him in His crisis hour. St. Francis heard that call and divested himself of everything. We think of his humble poverty, but millions have followed Christ in the same way and have become rich in the kingdom of heaven.

Christ mourned over the sins of His people, and the fate that awaited them on that day in the year 70 AD when, after a year of siege, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned its temple to the ground, slaughtering or enslaving the million Jews caught in their trap. In the past two thousand years, Christ’s followers have mourned with Him over the systemic injustice of governments who collude with the rich and powerful to follow Macchiavelli and mammon, rather than Christ. Today we mourn over the millions slaughtered by abortion, the men and women and children who have no future because of poor schools, usury, political corruption and corporate malfeasance.

The Beatitudes go on to tell us to be meek, and thus to rule with Christ; to thirst for the right attitudes and actions, and be satisfied; to be merciful as God is merciful, and thus receive forgiveness and mercy; to be clean in heart–not to lust after gold and sex, but after goodness–and thus to have glimpses of God’s glory even in this life; to make peace, in our homes, parishes, cities and country–and be called, like Francis, children of God.

And, in the end, what is the final beatitude? It is the one the Church is living out today. We are called intolerant because we stand up for natural marriage. We are called right-wing extremists because we decry the slaying of the unborn, and politicians who want us to pay for murder. We thus gather here and rejoice, because we are living out the witness of Christ and are paying the price paid by every prophet in history–rejection and persecution. We are one with that vast assembly of saints in heaven who, through their own witness, washed their robes clean in the blood of the Lamb. It is with that Lamb, and with His Body and Blood, that we worship.

We cannot, however, forget that we are weak and sinful people. We are saints-in-process, sinners with hope. The Jews had an elaborate system of sin-offering, which they abused in their pursuit of injustice and idolatry and pleasure. Their sacrificial system was meant to be a representation of their self-giving. But there was no self-giving, because when the Son of God appeared among them, they did not recognize Him. Their worship was not representation. It was replacement. The Holy Father gives us a phrase worth memorizing–“worship with replacements turns out to be a replacement for worship.” We are to give authentic worship to God in full union with Christ and the intention of the Church. Anything else is ersatz–a fraud. Anything less is unworthy of saints.

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