HOMILY: Beyond Stained Glass Windows

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

Solemnity of All Saints | October 31/November 1, 2015

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on today’s solemnity.

One of things I love about the church where I live, Christ our King, is the stained glass windows that surround the pews.

Each one is a stunning work of art depicting a different saint.

There is Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint.

There is Teresa of Avila, the great mystic and reformer.

There is Joseph, the steadfast husband and father.

There is Margaret Mary, the saint who fell in love with Jesus’ sacred heart.

But one of things the struck me after reading the readings for this weekend is how the windows in the Church are striving to embody what we have heard proclaimed in the Book of Revelation for today.

That the saints above are here with us and beside us, surrounding every altar.  Joining in our hymns of praise and of pleading, our hymns of sorrow and our hymns of joy.

And yet, at least for me, these very windows have often done the exact opposite of what they were intended to do.

Instead of inviting an encounter with these women and men each time I come to worship before this altar.

They have frozen these saints in time and removed them from our daily lives.

Instead of inviting me to see in these women and men an image of myself on the same journey towards God.

They have made them appear perfect, shielding me from their failures and their shortcomings, their doubts and their grief.

Instead of inviting me to see the saints as my sisters and brothers in faith.

They have made the saints seem as if they were a separate class of people.  One to which I have little hope of ever reaching.

But after hearing these readings once again, maybe I need to accept that my own view of the saints is too narrow, too limited.

Maybe today’s readings are an invitation to see the truth.

The truth about the saints we venerate in these windows.

And the saints, both living and deceased, that we have encountered in our own lives.

To see the truth that these men and women did not become saints because they were perfect, but because they encountered life as they found it and strove to recreate it in the image and likeness of God.

They saw the poverty of the world and strove to fill it by emptying themselves.

Whether it was Francis of Assisi casting off his fine garments in the public square or Pope Francis choosing a Kia on his recent journey to the US.

They saw the sorrow of the world and strove to heal it by their own perseverance and joy.

Whether it was Jane de Chantal mourning the loss of her husband and three of her children or my grandmother who raised her 8 children for almost three decades after the loss of her husband to cancer.

They saw the arrogance of the world and strove to offer a different way by their humility.

Whether it was Therese of the Little Flower encountering God in the ordinary moments or John Drennon our custodian who sees in each menial task an opportunity to serve God.

They saw the injustice of the world and strove to rectify it by their labor.

Whether it was Oscar Romero preaching liberation and hope to the oppressed of San Salvador or Larry di Paul awakening a social conscience in middle class kids like myself as we journeyed to Camden for weeks of service.

They saw the wounds of the world and strove to reconcile them.

Whether it was John Paul II forgiving the one who tried to assassinate him or a small Amish community in Pennsylvania that forgave the murderer of their children.

They saw the violence of the world and strove to be bearers of peace.

Whether it was Dorothy Day in her efforts to awaken her neighbors to the link between our faith and the real challenges facing the world to Fr. Gregory Boyle reclaiming the lives of former gang members in Los Angeles.

They saw what the world would demand of them and they were willing to pay that price for the sake of what they believed in.

Whether it was the earliest apostles dying in Roman arenas to fellow believers being beheaded in Syria and Iraq.

And in their witness, these women and men remind us of the truth that is ultimately at the heart of what we celebrate today.

Which is that we are all called to be saints.  

For we are all children of God.  Baptized into one Church.  Fed by the one Eucharist.

Happy Feast Day my friends.  Let us go forth and become who we are called to be.

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