Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Called to be Saints

People in a crowd crushed by a lorry in Nice, the brutal murder of a priest in Normandy, the heartrending killing of disabled people in Japan, bombings and loss of life in Mogadishu and Kabul, random stabbings in a square in central London, continuing atrocities in Aleppo and deliberate targeting of Christians in Iraq. These brutal and barbaric acts of violence leave us struggling with feelings of anger, sorrow and fear. But how should faith respond?

 

Tragic and violent death takes us straight to the very heart of Christian faith, to the Cross on which Jesus also suffered. Whenever we gather as God’s people around the altar, we remember that we share in the death of Christ that we may also share in his Resurrection. We proclaim Hope; Hope is different from optimism. Optimism is merely passive, expecting good to come, starting from somewhere else. Hope is active, working for good to come, starting with ourselves. Learning to live this is the calling of every Christian.

 

Last year the murdered priest Fr Jacques Hamel, wrote in his parish newsletter, “Do not think holiness is not for us. Holiness does not mean doing extraordinary things. We are sons and daughters of God. It is by living this relationship, day by day, that we become saints.” Priesthood is a ministry of hope, because whenever Christians celebrate the Eucharist, the Mass, they proclaim Christ’s death, not in fear but in hope.

 

Now is the time for us to stop believing that we can’t be saints, to stop focusing on what we think of as our lack of holiness, to stop offering ourselves excuses. Instead, now is the time to offer the world our simple hope, to witness that the world is not left hopeless, despairing and lost, because God is as he is in Jesus, and therefore there is hope.  We may be unlikely to experience directly the violence that many people are facing all over the world. But there are other ways in which we need to witness to hope when it is given us to do so, in the face of prejudice, hatred, cynicism and despair. They are the easy answers of people without hope.

 

Hope means not giving in to fear of those who follow a different faith, to prejudice about immigrants, or to despair for the future. Whenever we hear or feel such ideas inside ourselves (because we are guilty too), we let them go and ask God to put them where they belong. If we all try to become more inclusive people, respectful, open and humble towards all, then that is how we will reject the fear, hatred and division that the terrorists want to inspire.

 

This month of November is the Month of the Holy Saints, and of the Holy Dead in Christ. In our worship we share already in the glorious Kingdom to which the saints bear witness, as we pray for God’s will to be done in the departed, and in those of us who are still on our earthly pilgrimage. In the Mass, we know that our prayers are united with the whole Company of Heaven.