Sometimes there are homilies that stay with you. (Hopefully people say this about the homilies I give.) Once such homily for me was about the notion of the saints. The bishop who gave the homily was making the point that sometimes we see holiness as something that will only happen sometime way off into the future. But, he cautioned, if we always see holiness as something way off in the future, then we miss the point. Saints become saints be responding to God in their own lives while they are still alive on earth. It could be too late if we wait too long to answer the personal call to holiness that God gives to us.
Today we celebrate those saints who did not wait. They are those saints who answered the call to God’s holiness. They did not wait, but during their lifetimes responded to God’s grace in a way that led them to embrace the inviation to holiness that God gave them in creating them.
While we clearly celebrate saints that have been recognized as saints, we know there are others, many others, who are also saints but have not been officially recognized as such. Why have such a day as the one we celebrate today? Why does it matter that we celebrate these unknown saints?
The most important reason is that these unknown saints helped those people, in the time they lived, to recognize God more clearly because of their example of a holy life. Their holiness became a witness to call others to holiness. I know in my life I have experienced many examples of faith by watching the witness of others.
The other reason is that in remembering these unknown saints, we are reminded of the tender language that saints often use in relationship to God. In the second reading, we are reminded of the loving power of the notion that we are called children of God. Imagine!
The lives of holiness of these unknown saints point toward God, the ultimate victor, as we are reminded in today’s first reading. And today’s gospel gives us the pathway to embracing holiness in the beauty of the Beatitudes. We can become holy because we can do the things the Beatitudes invite us to do. We can be merciful, meek, comforting, peacemakers and more because of the invitation we recieve from God.
While today is not a celebration of us, it is a hopeful day where we are reminded about the call of God to become saints. And as that bishop reminded me so long ago, the time to accept invitation to be holy is now.