Saints are those who are so full of the love of God that they radiate His glory. They love as He loves, and thus care for the poor, heal the sick, feed the hungry. Sometimes their vocation is to pray, cloistered from the world, or sharing their abbeys and chapels with any who desire a quite moment with God. They are men and women of sacrifice, for their Lord is a God of sacrificial love. They give half their cloak to a naked beggar, as St. Martin did. They heal lepers and tame wolves, as St. Francis did. They preach the love of God in Auschwitz and offer their lives in place of others. They care for the dying and give shelter to the homeless. Having a vision of God, they write and preach, bursting with a love that cannot be hidden, helping the blind to see.
As our culture becomes increasingly secularized, the idea of self-sacrifice has become unpopular. Even Christians run away from Christ’s commandments, bending their knee to the politically correct dogma of the day. Christianity is not for sissies. And yet, it is definitely for lovers.
My bishop often said that you won’t like Heaven if you don’t like being in love.
And this morning, as we sang the thundering hymn, “For all the saints…”, as the priests and acolytes royally processed up the red-carpeted aisle of our local parish, I was glad to have the blessing of worshiping God in this beautiful sacred space. It was indeed like being in love. In love with glory, in love with God.
The Epistle, our first Scripture reading, was St. John’s vision of Heaven, in particular the saints and martyrs who stand before the Lamb, the Son of God, Jesus Christ:
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb… These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:2+, BCP, All Saints Day)
In their sacrificial love of God and neighbor, the saints are given a special place in Heaven, close to the throne of God, fed by by the Lamb, Christ himself. They are our heroes, those who thirst after righteousness, who tell the truth, true to God.
The Gospel for today complements this vision of John, for Christ lists the blessings (Beatitudes) given to the poor in spirit (the sad, depressed, despairing), those who mourn, the meek, the lovers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” This last phrase speaks to us today, for Christians are being persecuted throughout the world, as well as here. Our Lord concludes the passage:
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:1+, BCP, All Saints Day)
We are in the last hours of a national election. The vote could go either way. The electorate seems to be split between one candidate who breaks the law boldly, with impunity, immunity, and perjury. The alternate candidate upholds the law and tells the truth. But truth is difficult to bear. T.S. Eliot wrote in Four Quartets, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” And so we have a media of lies as well, denying the reality of international threats, of domestic disorder, and of late-term abortion. It is a media that covers up major flaws in one candidate and exaggerates minor flaws in the other. It’s all upside down and topsy-turvy. Confusion reigns. As a supporter of the second candidate, I have felt reviled, persecuted, and slandered for my beliefs, by media, friends, and family who look down from their lofty and superior perch.
This election is a turning point for America. It is a referendum on her very identity. History tells us that a democratic nation without the foundation of equality under the law will crumble. A nation crumbling will be prey to foreign powers, ideologies, tyrannies. The great experiment in democracy may be seeing its last days.
But today I gloried in an hour of Sunday worship, an hour in which I faced the reality of God, of Heaven, of the Saints. It was an hour of prayer and praise, a victorious hour that reminded me of who I am, why I was created, and my eternal destiny, Heaven. It was an hour bursting with God’s love, incarnate on the altar in bread and wine, a love fulfilling all righteousness.
Please pray for our country, pray for this election, pray that in all things, large and small, nations and people, God’s will be done. May we all be sanctified in time, so that we may in eternity gather by the river that runs by the throne of God.