A Gym Full of Saints

Solemnity of All Saints | November 1, 2019

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons

Last year I had the opportunity to travel with a group of students from Sallies to El Paso to immerse myself in the complex issue of immigration.

    It was quite a trip.

But on the way home, as we were sitting in the airport waiting for our flight, one of our students noticed a young father and his son sitting alone and obviously anxious.

Without prompting, he struck up a conversation completely in Spanish. And in those precious few moments, he learned more than he ever bargained for.

How the father had fled his home country when his wife was brutally murdered.  

How he had nothing but the small sack of clothes in his hand.  

How his son still didn’t understand what had happened to his mom.  Or why they were here.

Learning about the man’s story, he felt compelled to act.  He sent me to buy dinner as he unpacked his suitcase and began handing the gentleman anything he possessed.

As he said goodbye to the son, the father leaned close to me and whispered, “Tu niño eres un angel, un santo.”

Your child is an angel, a saint.

Now, I don’t want to speak for Neil. But I assume that he does not consider himself an angel or a saint.

    Which is understandable.

    Most of us resist these labels.

For we are hyper-aware of our imperfections.  Our failures. Our sinfulness.

    We know our doubts and insecurities.

    We know all the times we’ve cut corners or lashed out, or got high.

Saints are the figures on pedestals, right?  The perfect ones. Who got visions. And walked around surrounded by haloes.  And got martyred in horrific ways. And definitely went to Church every Sunday

    Not us.  Definitely not us.

And yet, I think that gentlemen we met in El Paso is on to something.

See, I think we have somehow confused perfection and sainthood.

But they are not one and the same.

Saints are the ones who reflect God’s presence into the world.

    God’s presence filtered through our own unique, beautiful, broken cracks

    And every time we let this happen.  We are saints.

    Everytime, we embrace one of the beatitudes, we are saints.

When you begin to understand sainthood in this way, you suddenly see saints all around you.

    At least I do.

For when I hear blessed are the poor in spirit, I think of Giovanni Manieri-Soto. A senior who arrives at Sallies because his school closed. All that he had come to know and work for taken away overnight. And yet, he embraced what was given to him in this present moment. And in that ability to surrender control, I see Giovanni as a saint.

For when I hear blessed are they who mourn, I think of Mashon Tiller.  A junior who has lost more than his fair share of people he has loved. And yet, through his grief, he has learned how to be a source of comfort and support for his brothers when they experience loss.  And in that compassion, I see Mashon as a saint.

For when I hear blessed are the meek, I think of Ms Correale who quietly directs every interaction with students towards God, treating each student as if it was Christ coming for a transcript or freaking out over an application deadline.  And in that meekness, I see Ms. Correale as a saint.

For when I hear blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, I think of Matteo Ahumada publicly working to raise money and awareness in the battle against childhood cancer or Nasai Oliver forcing a meeting his freshman year calling our community to become more inclusive.  And in their work to build a better world, I see Matteo and Nasai as saints.

For when I hear blessed are the merciful, I think of Kevin Coates in a moment he may not even remember, But when a freshman dropped mustard all over Kevin’s sports coat. He simply shrugged it off and assured the terrified kid that it was ok. For he remembered what it was like to be a freshman and felt the guy could use a break. And in his forgiveness, I see Kevin as a saint.

For when I hear blessed are the pure of heart, I think of Nate Baxter or Zach Welsh or Mrs. Godfrey.  Individuals who radiate a simple joy in every aspect of their lives. And in their joy, I see Nate, and Zach and Mrs. Godfrey as saints.

For when I hear blessed are the peacemakers, I think of William Hackman who spent his week at Nativity Prep building a genuine connection and bridge with a young man who really struggles.  Or Mr. Mariano inviting two guys into conversation to work out their conflict. And in their struggle to build connections, I see Will and Mr. Mariano as saints.

And when I hear blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, I think of all the guys who have worked so hard to define themselves apart from all of the negative voices that have questioned their worth, both from without and within themselves. I think of Max Silverstein or Braedon Carney or James Johnson. And in their ability to claim their own worth and lead others to do the same, I see Max and Braedon and James as saints.

I look around this room and I see a gym full of saints.

Do you?  Do you see who you are and who you can be?

Blessed are you, my friends.  Blessed are you.

May God be Praised.

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