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Written in the Book of Life

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sermon for the Solemnity of All Saints
“Trick or Treat!” say the two teenagers dressed as Freddie Kruger and Sadako from The Ring who have appeared at your door. Perhaps you take it all with a sense of humour and fill their pots with Freddos or fun-sized Snickers bars. Or perhaps you see it as a form of demanding money with menaces. However, one of the more puzzling aspects of modern times is the association of All Saints’ Eve and All Saints’ Day with this business of ghosts, ghouls and imps.
What have ghosts and ghouls to do with the Blessed Saints in Heaven?
Surely, Christians should keep away from all that sort of thing, especially from all attempts to talk with the dead.
Hold on! Don’t Catholics talk to the dead? “St Anthony, pray for me!” “St Thomas, pray for me!” et c. The saints are all dead, just like our own ancestors. What’s the difference between asking for the prayers of a patron saint and, say, invoking the spirits of your ancestors that you may find in other cultures?
Sounds like a good point, doesn’t it? We can’t very well tell people off for participating in a séance when we have a whole Litany to the Saints.
There are, however, so many differences which show how wrong people are who think we engage in communicating with the dead.
First, the saints are not dead. They were dead, but they aren’t now. In his great Revelation, St John the Divine sees all of the citizens of Heaven alive and with the Lamb in the New Jerusalem. They have died with Christ and now they live with Him. As He has been raised from the dead, the Saints have been raised with Him.  The truly dead are those who reject God and Our Lord Jesus and are thrown with Lucifer and his angels into the fire of the second death. Rather than communicating with the dead, we are communicating with the living.
Second, we ask for their prayers to God in exactly the same way as a friend might ask you to pray for them. If prayers are answered, then it is God Who answers them. When you read Holy Scripture, you will notice that every single miracle, every wonderful occurrence occurs as a result of a saint praying to God. The saints know that they have no power of their own. They rely on God to provide them will all good things and it is because they are in a perfect and intimate relationship with God that He hears their prayers.
Third, we know that the saints are with God. This can’t be said for all the spirits that wander the Earth. We know that the Devil can pose like an angel of light to get his own way. This is why we use the word “Saint” in the first place. “Saint” means Holy, someone who has been set apart for dwelling with God in Eternity. The title, “Saint” doesn’t really refer to the person, but to God Himself. To refer someone to a saint puts them straightaway into the presence of God. This is why some angels are called saints, like St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael. That “saint” title lets you know that God is near.
Fourth, we are saints in the making. At this very moment, because of our Faith in God and because we desire His will done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are being saved. Salvation is not a one-off event in our lives: it is a process begun with our Baptism and ending in God’s embrace when we come home to Him. While many may lose that salvation by rejecting God, our persistence means that we are destined to join the saints. It means that we will be in that number of saints that St John the Divine records in the Book of Revelation. We are written in the Bible! His also means that we are at one with the Saints. We receive the same Communion as they do. They are our family and we are theirs, all part of one body – the Church! The fact that they have gone before doesn’t stop us being at one with them. In asking for their prayers, we are asking them to stand in solidarity with us just as we stand in solidarity with those we know who are suffering.
We ask for the prayers of the saints, praying to God through them. They have been purified through their living with God and they act like lenses through whom our prayers come to God and through whom the Divine light shines. All Saints’ Day is a day of worshipping God alongside those who still live. It is a day when those live in Time remember that they live with those who live in Eternity with God. It’s a day when we might possibly see ourselves in the pages of the Bible.

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