Sunday, November 29, 2009

Andrew, patron of vocations

Homily for the Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
30 November 2009
St. Lawrence Chapel at the University of Kansas
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Today's feast of St. Andrew is important for every vocation director. A popular vocation program for high school men is called Project Andrew. The program involves priests bringing young men to come and see what the priesthood, a life specially united to Christ, is like. Andrew is the perfect patron for such a vocation evening. He is the first disciple of Christ, leaving behind his discipleship with John the Baptist and his fishing trade in order to follow Jesus with a special closeness and attention. Every vocation is the fruit of the discipleship modeled by Andrew. Before we are sent by Christ, we must first learn to leave everything behind that keeps us from following him. The main obstacle to every vocation is our desire to have Christ follow us rather than the other way around.

Andrew in John's Gospel brings his brother Peter to Jesus. This is important as well in that every vocation is fostered by the faith of others. None of us follows Jesus alone, but always we are encouraged by the witness and words of others. Andrew is told by John the Baptist to follow Christ, and then he promptly encourages his brother Peter to do so as well. We know the rest of the story. Peter's vocation was helped by the encouragement of his brother Andrew. Andrew is thus the patron of those, like vocation directors and pastors, who are trying to bring their young men closer to Christ, so that they can follow Him and receive a vocation directly from Him.

Finally, Andrew himself is sent as an apostle. He receives the apostolic mission to become a fisher of men. As a fisher, Andrew receives the mission to preach the Good News in such a way that it captures the minds and hearts of all who hear it. He must capture people in such a way that they realize that it is not they who choose Christ, but Christ who chooses them, and sends them out to bear a kind of fruit that will remain. He is a powerful patron of all of those who are being called by God to take up some special apostolic mission within the Church, and especially of those called to the priesthood. It is the priest's first duty to proclaim the word of God, so that people may believe in Christ. It is his first duty to proclaim the love of Christ, which appeals to the deepest longings of man, and sets him free to live a perfect life of sacrificial love. +m

Ready for big or little things?

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent
29 November 2009
St. Lawrence Chapel
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Last year for the first Sunday in Advent I used as a metaphor Todd Reesing's 4th down touchdown pass to Kerry Meier to beat Missouri. Man was it a great and timely metaphor for being alert. Being ready for the moment. This year, I had just as much fun at the game, but the last three minutes stunk. So no Advent metaphor this year. Rats.

So today in the new liturgical year for us. Happy New Year! The first Sunday of Advent. Many options for the homilist, including the regular warnings of not celebrating Christmas too early, of not getting so caught up in doing things that we miss being present to the mystery of Christmas that truly makes all things new. Ostensibly, we begin today four weeks of getting ready to celebrate the birth of a child, that with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem the truth that God is with us takes on an entirely new meaning. With the Incarnation, Christ is as present to us as we are to ourselves. He is among us as a human person, one like us in every way but sin.

It strikes me as ironic that the Church asks us to prepare for something as small and quiet as the birth of Christ in Bethlehem by telling us in tonight's Scriptures to be ready for the Big Bang! We are asked squarely if we are ready for the fireworks that will inaugurate the end of time, but isn't this odd since we are supposed to be getting ready not for things that will frighten us, but for something that is not frightening at all . . . the appearance of a baby! How does the apocalypse ready us for the birth of Jesus?

Maybe the two are related in this way. If we are not ready for the big things, we will easily miss the small things. It is one thing to be ready for a forest fire if one comes our way, but another thing to know how a forest fire starts, with just a spark. Knowing about the possibilty of a forest fire that changes everything it touches makes us more intensely interested in how and why the fire got started. The apocalypse and Bethlehem are perhaps related in this way. If we assume that nothing big is going on around us, we will not look for the little ways in which big things get started. The birth of a baby in Bethlehem changed the world more than any human birth ever has. Beginning with this birth, the heavens were opened and the destiny of man was forever changed, and who was able to recognize it? A humble young girl and her husband Joseph, and a few shepherds and three astronomers. The rest of the world was asleep.

Advent is a four week reminder that as much as we would like to be awake to all that is happening around us, we are all asleep. All of us! It would be quite arrogant for us to assume that in the Christmas story we are Mary or Joseph or the shepherds or the wise men. No, we are probably the rest of the world. We are asleep to most everything going on around us, especially the most important things. Advent is about trying to be present to the most important thing, the coming of God among us.

The apocalypse reminds us that big things are happening. Big things are happening all around us. This Christ who comes among us at Bethlehem is not dead, but living. He is still acting, changing the redeeming the world and mankind in powerful and awesome ways. Through Him, incredible change is not only possible, but is constantly among us, especially among those of us who have the supernatural gift of hope and who know that with Christ we are living right now in the fullness of time. With Christ entering into time, every moment on earth is fraught with deeper meaning. With Christ coming among us, He through whom all things were made, all things are possible. Advent challenges us to wake up to not just the possibility, but the reality of new things and big things happening all around us. Advent wakes us to the reality that what we do today will alter the course of history forever. Every action, no matter how small, can have the enormous impact that the ordinary and small and quiet coming of a baby in Bethlehem had. So we Christians watch. We wait. We ready ourselves for big things, and look for the seeds of a new tomorrow in the coming of Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever.

Only a couple of people recognized the Messiah's coming. God's plan to do great things will begin very close to us. We will probably miss it. But let's try not to. We begin by welcoming and recognizing Christ now, as he comes among us in the Eucharist even more humbly and readily than he did on that quiet night in Bethlehem. We could not all be in Bethlehem on that silent night. But we can all be here, where Christ comes again in humility and in the silence of the Eucharist to help us to hope in great things!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Miguel Agustin Pro, pray for us!

Homily for Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
23 November 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center

Miguel Pro is the man. A 20th Century Saint! A North American Saint! A holy priest! What a beautiful life he lived. By all accounts, as a kid, he was quite a character. Mischievous and daring - knocking himself out with the stunts he would pull. By age 20, courageous enough to forego success in business to answer a heartfelt call to be a priest, even during the onset of the anti-Catholic Mexican revolution. With his seminary forced to close by the new government, Miguel did not abandon his call but escaped to the United States, and from there went to Spain to continue his study with the Jesuits. As he was about to be ordained, he was beset with terrible ulcers, which did not discourage him but purified his faith and love all the more. He had surgeries, made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and then came back to Mexico, where it was illegal to publicly present yourself as a priest. Miguel, whose relics along with those of the North American Jesuit martyrs are kept in many altars of the Archdiocese, including the newly dedicated altar of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood, is depicted on the heavenly Jerusalem mural at St. Michael wearing a Mexican business suit. Father Miguel never wore clerics. It was illegal to do so. It's fun when people stand in front of the mural and ask - who is that? I say it's a priest who never wore clerics. An amazing priest at that! Fr. Miguel worked as a priest for two years in an area of Mexico where even the Churches were closed, so he had to build the kingdom of God underground, which he did faithfully. Fr. Miguel received the grace of a martyrdom like that of Christ, a martyrdom he was most ready for. Like Jesus, he ended up being falsely accused, and his execution was a public spectacle that was meant to discourage his followers, but which only strengthened them. Fifty years after his death, the faith for which Fr. Miguel died was firmly re-established. John Paul II visited Mexico, and shortly thereafter celebrated Mass for the largest gathering of people in the history of the world. In the land of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the apostle of Mexico, the life of Blessed Miguel Pro was made perfect in weakness, and bore incomparable fruit. He died out of love for Christ and his people, after having forgiven his persecutors, and proclaiming with his last words - Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Apocalypse past, present or future? Yes!

Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
15 November 2009
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here.

The apocalypse makes for a great story. For those in film, making the special effects for destruction of the world has got to be fun. For those who love terror, there is nothing scarier than demons swooping down claiming the souls of men desperate to get away. For those who think they can prophesy, there is no shortage of events signaling the end of the world - global warming, terrorism, the rise of atheism. You name it. It's happening. The apocalypse makes for a great story. That is why filmmakers and authors are always coming back to it. The apocalypse sells. And it is why even after Jesus says that no one, not even He or the angels, knows the hour, people keep predicting the end of the world. And getting it wrong by the way. But we shouldn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. The apocalypse is a great story, and it is a story that is obviously here to stay, whether it is told by Al Gore, or the makers of the movie 2012, or a priest like me.

We keep the apocalypse around not only because it sparks the imagination of how and when it might happen, but because the story is helpful to us in a practical way as well. The apocalypse is a story that teaches real lessons. The story even works, you might say, whether or not you believe in God or fear God. For example, it does no good for us to pretend that we will live forever, when in fact, we will not. The apocalypse reminds us of that. It does us no good to pretend like life is long, when it is really short. It does us no good to pretend like we have plenty of time to do everything we want to do, when in reality, the things we put off till tomorrow are the things that likely will never get done. Carpe Diem is a better motto for life than 'why do today what you can put off till tomorrow.' We all know this deep down, even the most stubbornly lazy among us. Most of us are terrible procrastinators, but we wish we weren't. We're trying not to be. And finally, it does us no good either to pretend that our actions do not matter, when we all know that our actions do matter and do make us who we are. It does us no good to imagine that what we do today has no effect on who we will be tomorrow, when in fact the opposite is true. The apocalypse, predicting the separation of good and bad at some unsuspected time, is helpful to us not only because it reminds us that time is precious, but it also reminds us that everything we do has consequences into eternity. It reminds us of what we know all to well, that there will be a time when we can no longer turn around and become the person we always promised ourselves we would be. There is a point of no return for all of us, and it does us no good to pretend like there is not. The apocalypse is a good story because it brings home these lessons. In thinking about the end of the world, we are reminded of how we want to live today.

Jesus used every good story to make his points. We shouldn't be surprised that he uses apocalyptic stories as well. What is more, Jesus knew well the prophecy of Daniel concerning the end of the world. Being a prophet himself, Jesus announced an apocalyptic message like that of Daniel. But Jesus' prediction gets more intense. Jesus not only reveals what the end of the world may be like, he says that the generation He is speaking to will not pass away until all of these things have taken place. Jesus is telling the story of the apocalypse, but he is doing much more than forwarding the apocalyptic revelations given to Daniel. No, Jesus in talking about the apocalypse is not simply forwarding the message, he is fulfilling the message. Jesus not only says that the kingdom of God is coming; he says just as importantly, the kingdom of God is among you! Jesus came not just to tell people what meeting God face to face might be like one day; no, He came to fully reveal right now what it is like to meet God face to face. Jesus came not simply to announce the apocalypse once again; He is the apocalypse, the unveiling of all things as they really are.

So when we hear Daniel prophesying about angels coming, and distress, and the dead awakening, and the wise shining brightly, we are as Christians called to remember the events of our salvation, the great agony of Jesus, his stupendous battle against evil, his descent into hell, his resurrection from the dead announced by angels, and the lives of the first saints who shine so brightly through history. When we hear the apocalyptic prophecy of Jesus, of the sun being darkened and heavens shaken, a prophecy that he promised would be fulfilled in his generation, we Christians should think of that Good Friday afternoon and the great battle that took place in those hours, a battle more definitive for the destiny of the world than any battle in history or any battle yet to come.

You see, as Christians, when we hear apocalyptic scripture and stories, we do not have to disobey the advice of Jesus and start trying to predict the future. No, we can begin by looking into the past, into the events of our salvation wherein Christ Himself fulfilled every apocalyptic prophecy. We can then look into the present, where we who have accepted the mission of Christ to extend his victory, recommit ourselves to winning with Christ the battle against sin and death in the time and place of our own lives. Then, knowing that the kingdom of God has already and truly and fully come among us through Christ, and knowing that the great victories of the past and present are as big as any battle left before us in the future, we can move forward into that unknown day and hour not with childish or slavish fear, but with the virtues of the Christian - faith, hope and love! +m

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Can you receive from the poor?

Homily for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
8 November 2009
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Before I went to seminary, I worked in development for the Church. In short, I was responsible for getting people with means to put large sums of money into the treasury of the Church. For the most part, my life was focused on the people that Jesus ignores in today's Gospel. I don't say this to suggest that what I did was unimportant. In order to build the kingdom of God, and to have buildings that enable the family of God to gather, and evangelization efforts that effectively proclaim the Gospel of life and love to the world, it takes money. It takes lots of it. And it takes the commitment of many people of means. Hence, development work in the Church. Getting to know people of means, sharing the vision of the Church with them, and gathering people of means for parties, and meetings. Finding ways to recognize and motivate them to make a gift that will make a huge difference in the ability of the Church to build the kingdom and proclaim the Gospel. I have to say that as much as I enjoyed this work, and as much as I enjoyed the people I met and the impact I was able to make, there was something missing. Even as important as the work of development is, a work that I am very willing to continue doing todayas a priest, the reality is that most of the gifts made to the Church, even the million dollar ones, represented less than 1% of the net worth of the individual involved. The rule of thumb is this, that the more a person has, the smaller percentage of his income he is willing to give away. Why is this? Today's Gospel tells us why. The more a person has, the more he is afraid he will run out. The less a person has, the less afraid he is of running out. This sounds counterintuitive, but it is true. The poor at least have the experience of running out time and time again, and yet finding a way to move forward despite their desperate plight. The rich lose their trust because this trust is never tested or purified.

I could turn this homily into a rant about how terrible it is that Catholics only give 1-2% of their income to the Church. I could tell you how much the Church needs more resources to do the work that Christ has entrusted to her. But I'm not going to. I do not want your money to keep you out of heaven, but realistically, the Church will continue well into the future even if no one gives a dime. There are ways to proclaim the Gospel without money. Today's reflection is about listening to how often Jesus himself talks to his disciples about money, and about listening to his admonition that where your money is, there also your heart will be.

There are exceptions to this rule of the rich giving less, of course. There are many fine people of means who have made extraordinarily sacrificial gifts to the Church. But most of these large gifts differ in substance from the gifts we have put before us today in the scriptures. Both Elijah and Jesus observe the giving of widows, the most impoverished members of their societies. These widows give not 1% of their income, but 100% of their income. Both gave their whole livelihood. What is more, both gave despite their having less than the people they were giving to. Elijah, with his status as a prophet, had access to greater security than did the widow from whom God commanded him to beg. The 2 cents put into the temple treasury by the widow observed by Jesus was no doubt statistically insignificant.

Have you ever received a gift from someone who was poorer than you? Of course you have. We all have. We have given these gifts too. As children, we probably made gifts for our parents, that were priceless because they came from someone who had so little. Gifts from poor to rich are particularly interesting and beautiful, because they go against the grain. Gifts naturally should flow more readily from rich to poor. At Christmas, the people with means are expected to make larger gifts than the people without means. It would be odd for a child to give a gift to his parents that costs more than the toys he received. Giving naturally goes from rich to poor. But today's Gospel says that these are not the most important gifts. The most significant gifts, according to the eyes of Jesus who points his disciples away from the rich people and toward the widow, are gifts that go from poor to rich. Think about that. The gifts that change us, and change the world the most, are gifts that go from poor to rich.

I invite you to think about your life and to reflect on whether or not this is true. I have been on the receiving end of thousands of gifts, but one that stands out the most is the gift I received from orphan girls in Honduras. I went to Santa Rosa de Copan in 2005 with members of my first parish to personalize our parish's gifts to the orphanage. My parish was helping the Franciscan sisters there with renovating and expanding the buildings of the orphanage, and providing them needed operational monies. As the first days of the visit went on, I could feel my heart expanding in ways I could not have predicted. I found myself getting happier and happier and happier. My happiness was more pure than the happiness I felt day to day at home. It actually bothered me a little bit, until I figured out why. It was simple. The gift from rich to poor, the gift that I represented, was important, but the gift from rich to poor did not produce happiness. What I was receiving from these little orphan girls, the gift from poor to rich, was producing happiness. These girls, whose only belongings fit into a tiny box by their bedside, who didn't even have the riches of a family who loved them, were giving me a thousand times more than I could give them. From the moment I arrived at the orphanage, everything that the girls had was mine. Their time, their energy, their love - everything was mine the moment I arrived there. I realized quickly the disparity between me and these girls. I, the rich man, had come to share some of my resources and some of my love; they, the poor girls, gave me instantly what I could not give them. They gave me their whole livelihood, and all of their love, without a thought to counting the cost. Tonight we are invited by the scriptures to remember that the gifts that have changed our hearts the most are not gifts from rich to poor, but gifts from poor to rich.

The lesson of today's Gospel is not that it is ok to be destitute, or that everyone should strive to be as destitute as the heroes of today's scriptures, the two widows. Even those who take vows of poverty in our Catholic tradition can and do have more security than these two widows. There is no excuse in our world, given the vast intellectual resources spent on so many other things, for us to lack the knowledge or will to eliminate poverty. It is a disgrace for anyone to be in danger of death because they lack basic nutrition or shelter. Woe to anyone whose conscience has become numb to the cries of the poor. There will always be a need for heroic work in evangelizing the rich so that true charity may be the hallmark of their lives, and that the world's wealth will be used not to oppress mankind, but to serve the common dignity of all people.

Still, even if the goal is not for us to become destitute, the lesson of today's Gospel holds. Blessed are the poor, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Those with little in the way of material wealth worry less about the future than those with much. What is more, those who horde have the greatest likelihood of running out, whereas those that give everything they have enjoy the greatest security. As pertains to the Gospel, gifts from rich to poor help a little, but gifts from poor to rich plant the seeds of the kingdom of God more than any other gifts. May this be true especially of those supernatural gifts we receive from God, those virtues on which the final destiny and dignity of man rest. If we are low of faith, let us share what faith we have with others, so that we may never run out. If we are low on hope, let us share what little hope we have with others, so that we may never run out. If we are low on love, let us share what little love we have with others, without counting the cost, so that we may never run out. +m

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Meet KCK Seminarians Video

Here is a video with some of the guys. These outtakes were filmed at the Archbishop's 'send off' dinner in August of 2009 before our 26 seminarians headed back to their respective seminaries!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Journey Home

Homily for All Souls Day
2 November 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

According to most story tellers, there are two basic metaphors that describe what life is. Life is a battle. Life is a journey. Every good story, and every interesting life, is a combination of these two metaphors. Where am I going? What are the obstacles in my way?

My younger brother recently had heart surgery. He was going through a battle to fix his heart. Several people were helping my brother through this battle - his surgeon and nurses and those who were there before and after surgery to encourage him, but there were hundreds of others who were helping him through their prayers. Everyone was checking in on my brother, trying to get the latest information, to be sure that he was going to be victorious in this battle. And thanks be to God, he was.

We do the same for our friends who are on a journey. How many times in life do we say - have a safe trip! Call me when you get home, or to your destination. Some of the best stories in life come from traveling, especially when things get rough on the road or in the air! We pray for those who are traveling, trusting that things will go fine, but knowing all too well that life is precarious, especially when you are on the road!

On all souls day, we do the same for our friends who have gone before us. We check in on them, and we help them in whatever way we can in whatever battle and whatever journey they have remaining in front of them. There are thousands of battles, and thousands of journeys, that make up every human life. Today's feast given us by the Church focuses on the final journey and the final battle common to every life, the journey and battle that lies between the moment of one's death in this world and one's entry into the eternal presence of God.

Heaven, as we know well, is the place for holy ones, for the saints, those who have fulfilled the commandment to love God with all one's heart, and mind and soul and strength. If we are honest, most of us, and most all our friends, have managed to only partially fulfill this commandment. We may be good people overall, preferring nothing to the love of God, but we still love many things besides God. Almost all of us manage to become good people overall, but few of us are holy. Very few people on their death bed declare themselves to be saints; no quite to the contrary, they while being thankful for their life wish that they could have done more. Unlike the saints, we have not yet been able to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength, nor our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Tonight's feast of all souls says that what is true for us is true for most our friends who have gone before us. Our friends and family members are good people, whose perseverence through many journeys and many battles in life have shown that their lives are ordered to heaven, but at the moment of their death, they may not yet have been holy. Tonight's feast is not about the transition from bad to good, as much as it is the transition from good to holy. Both transitions are important. Both are necessary. Each transition has its own battles. Yet those of us who have tried to become holy know that the journey from bad to good is simple compared to the final journey from being good to being holy.

Given that most of us die being good not holy, there is this final journey and battle, the purification of a soul, that takes place between this world and entry into heaven. It does no good to pretend that any good person goes directly to heaven; to do so is to pretend that every decent person is a saint, and that there is no real difference between being good and being holy, neither of which is true. Anybody who has attempted this transition knows how different the two states really are. There is a difference between me and Maximilian Kolbe, between my friends and St. Therese of Lisieux, between my family members and St. Lawrence. It would be unjust for me to think I, who love God partially, should enter heaven as readily as those who love God completely. The reading from Wisdom tells us that the souls of the just are in the hands of God. Purgatory is that process of justice by which we are made like the saints, so that we may justly take our seat with them at the heavenly banquet.

Christ has begun this justification by his passion and death. Only because of his salvific act, the bridge has been repaired between man and God, and the journey to heaven is possible once again. Christ has won the victory over sin and death, and anyone who asks Christ to share in that victory knows that our sins may for a time lead us away from God, but through the experience of having our sins forgiven, our sins may be the means by which we come to know the love of God most fully, and desire to love Him in return like the saints, with all of our mind, all of our soul, and all of our strength.

Christ has justified us and made possible the journey from death to life, from sin to holiness, from earth to heaven, but Christ will not save us without ourselves. As St. Paul says to us clearly in his letter to the Romans, the resurrection is a surety for those who have grown into union with Christ through a death like his. Christ himself said as much, saying that his disciples would not be able to skip the journey and battles inherent in the transition from being good to becoming holy, but must take up their own crosses and follow Him.

Purgatory is the last step on our journey with Christ from death to life. It is probably the most important part of the journey, and perhaps the most difficult. We do not know for sure how long or short this transition is, how hot or cold, how difficult or easy, or where exactly our loved ones are along the journey, whether they are at the beginning, or the end, or somewhere in between. The journeys of persons through purgatory are as different as are the journeys of persons through life on this earth. We do know however, that this necessary journey would be an impossible one were it not for us. The last journey would be the most impossible of all were it not for us, since those who have died are no longer able to work out their salvation. Like my brother who going into battle to fix his heart had to have faith in his surgeon, his doctors, and his nurses, and his friends who were praying to God for Him, since he could not fix his heart by himself, so also we must leave this world in faith knowing that our friends that we leave behind will continue to pray for us and to suffer for us, until we are made holy. Christ has made us our brother's keepers, and what is done by one member of the body affects the whole body. It is our great privilege, and responsibility, and joy - all of us who know salvation to be Christ's gift not just to individuals, but to his whole bride - the Church - to offer prayers and sacrifices on this All Souls Day and every day for our beloved dead, and even for our enemies.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saints change the world

Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints
1 November 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Halloween gets bigger all the time. Very few adults got dressed up when I was young. When I was young, Halloween was something I always knew I would grow out of. Now I'm not so sure. I feel myself turning the other way, wanting to share in the enthusiasm of Halloween again. Am I wrong, or is Halloween getting to be a bigger holiday all the time? When I see facebook status(es) saying that Halloween is the greatest night of the year, I admit I get a little defensive, being a priest and all. But overall the incremental enthusiasm for Halloween is probably a good thing. I'm not worried that great numbers of people are turning toward the darkness or the occult. I would preach about it in a second if I were. Everyone expects the Vatican to come out and to condemn Halloween - because doesn't the Church always try to take our 'fun' away? But there is no such thing forthcoming. If anything, I see fewer and fewer witches and zombies and vampires and more and more outrageous costumes of stupifying silliness. In my opinion, Halloween has become for almost everyone not a turn to the dark side but a celebration of love with friends, and a way to build community, as everyone participates in the festival.

There is one thing I would change about Halloween, however. I wish deep down that the celebration of Halloween would be a precursor to the great holy day of All Saints, which falls on a Sunday this year thereby saving me lots of confessions of people missing the Holy Day of obligation. I wish enthusiasm for Halloween equaled enthusiasm for All Saints. I see lots of energy going toward the perfect costumes and perfect parties, none of which I want to take away. I just wish that the party wasn't over so soon, for if there was ever was a party for people celebrating the ability to become someone that have always dreamed of being, it is the liturgy in which we now find ourselves, the solemnity of All Saints. It is in this liturgical party and prayer, that we place ourselves within the great company of the saints who were transformed before the very eyes of men not just for a night, but for eternity. Wearing a costume for a night with friends is one thing, for sure. It is fun. Yet how much more fun should we be having tonight with our friends, the saints, with whom we pray in a very intense way in this liturgy. Our friends, the saints, are the ones who help us not to create and wear a perfect costume for a night, but who help us by their prayers to transform ourselves into what we all wish we could become forever.

There are too many saints for us to remember. The book of revelation says that 144,000 is a good place to start, but that there are countless more! We remember Peter and Paul easily. We all have a favorite patron saint like Mother Teresa or Maximilian Kolbe. There are old saints, and ones canonized by the Church just this month like Damian who worked with the lepers of Hawaii. There are saints we call upon often for their friendship when we are in deep trouble, like St. Anthony or St. Jude. But there are many others waiting for us to discover, more saints than there are costume options for Halloween. We make a special effort tonight to remember our friends whom we tend to forget over time, especially those dead who have been heroic witness of faith, hope and love in our own lives, during this special liturgy in which we renew our friendship with all the saints.

We remember tonight that saints are holy because they preferred nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict). To take nothing away from the greatest scientists, artists, and political and military heroes of human history, all of whom we should remember often alongside all those who promote the common good of humanity by unselfishly inspiring and helping their fellow man, the saints are those we remember especially because they made the love of God more present in the world. It is the commitment of the saints to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, and their belief that the human person is redeemed by the love of Christ, that sets them apart from the rest of humanity. As Pope Benedict said in his first encyclical God is Love, even if there were no longer any disease or war in the world, and even if political leaders were able to deliver justice to all people, the world would still need saints, for the vocation of man is not to be comfortable or self-sufficient, but is to love, and man is ordered to and set free by love. A saint is a person who makes the love of God more present and more real to a world that is always tempted to stray from that love.

Just as the love that Jesus Christ brought into the world, a love that grows more intense according to the greatest need of the least deserving, made his life's story the greatest story in human history, so also the lives of the saints are lives that have changed the world more than any other. If we believe that the world will one day be redeemed fully by the love of God, then the saints, who lived only to make that love more present, are the lives by which the world is most deeply changed. We might say it this way. If we wonder why there is still hatred, and war and injustice in the world, and a lack of respect for the dignity of the human person, we can think of a lot of reasons. But the real reason is that there are not enough saints in the world. If we wonder why so many people still despair of ever finding their deep purpose in the world, it is because there are not enough saints in the world. If we accept that the vocation of man is to love, then it is by love and love alone that the world is forever changed and set free. The saints are those who loved God and their neighbor most deeply, and so the saints, both those canonized by the Church and those unable to be canonized, are by this definition the deepest agents of change this world will ever know.

The saints with whom we pray tonight have completed their race. They hand on the baton to us. Like Jesus who has ascended to the Father, yet sends His Holy Spirit to remain fully present to us and to guide us along our life's journey, so also the saints whose souls are with God stand ready to help us as our friends with their prayers. Like us, the saints by their own power were not even able to follow the ten commandments, let alone fulfill perfectly the beatitudes read to us in tonight's Gospel. Yet knowing that Jesus alone is poor in spirit, and sorrowful, and meek, and merciful, and pure of heart, and peaceful, and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, the saints humbly gave Christ the space of their own lives so that his heroic virtue and love might reach new places and new people. Beset by weakness like we are, the saints were still able to accomplish the impossible, becoming holy, because they gave Christ through them the opportunity to complete his mission of redeeming the world by love. In the lives of the saints, no matter how big or small our lives may be, we see a way forward for us. With the saints as our friends, we see with them the way our lives too might change the world, not just for a night, but for eternity. +m