Fr Michael Rasicci’s homily for All Saints Sunday, the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, 11/04/2018.  In the Episcopal Church, we celebrate All Saints on November 1st and on the Sunday closest to November 1st. I have celebrated this service four times this year. I am glad we honor our departed on this date because the reading from this year seem to focus more on death than on honoring the departed. What or who do we honor on this date?

We honor Holiness. For a lot of us, if we think about ourselves, we may say, “I’m not Holy.” That may only partially be true. While some are Canonized by the Church and we may not compare ourselves to them. The truth is that you and I, by virtue of our baptism and by God’s grace, we are already God’s holy people. We’re called to begin to live into that mystery so that, as our lives go on, we will grow in holiness. We will grow in being like God.  God said, “Be Holy, for I, the Lord your God, am Holy.” What God is, we are called to be. The One that God looks to is Jesus. We need to pay attention to what we see Jesus doing, what we see Jesus saying, how we see Jesus acting is what we are called to do and to act.  That takes a lifetime of growing in God’s grace to become those Holy people. We all know people who we say are “Saints”–not canonized–people we crossed paths with who came across as someone who really knew God, who were full of the Holy Spirit, who could very easily talk about their faith. Just by their example, you knew that when they went to church, it was an example of their faith.  When they came home, they weren’t any different that how they were in church. They weren’t two-faced. They were people who were honest and had personal integrity and were down to earth. They could talk to you and even talk about things going on in the world and not run other people down, not be angry, not say cross words. Those kinds of people seem to exude a kind of peace about them, Christian or not. We may say we knew them as  “living Saints” because of how that person has been because of how they have touched my life, how they have touched your life.

When we look at these scriptures today, and look at the other side of living a Christian live, we look at the reality of death. The first reading is from the Book of Wisdom which is part of the Apocrypha–works originally written in Greek rather than in Hebrew. The Wisdom writer is trying to answer two questions, “Why do people die when they do?” and “What happens when someone dies?”In the time of Christ, the Jews had an evolving concept of life after death.  In the first five books of the Bible–the Torah. God breathed the soul into you at birth. You were to live the covenant. How you live this life and the memory you leave behind in the lives of people you touched was all there is. They came to believe in a nether world called Sheol–a state of perpetual nothingness you went to after death. After years of meditation, they came to realize that we were more than the dust God used to create us. He gave us the spark of life, the breath of God.  We are called to be holy as God is holy. Not just for this life, but for the life to come. That’s why the Wisdom writer says that the Souls of the Just are in the Hands of God. Nothing will happen to them now. The foolish may think they are dead. People may mourn their loss, they can still have hope that there is true immortality–eternal life that goes on with God. Those who are just, who have lived the life God has called them to, are in the hands of God and nothing can touch them. The author tries to describe the life that goes on like the sparks that spread a grass fire. The sparks spread the fire. The just don’t have to worry that the only way to survive is in the memory of others, their reputation. Life changed and beliefs change and grew. The Pharisees caught the idea of eternal life with God. They were the ones who set the context for this. They were always in conflict with the Sadducees who said, “If it’s not in the first five books, the Torah, then it doesn’t exist.”

When Jesus comes on the scene and we have John’s Gospel today, Jesus is operating under the influence of the Pharisees. They did believe that there was everlasting life with God.  Martha confronts Jesus on the road. When Jesus says “He Will Rise Again” Martha thinks he is referring to rising again on the last days. At this point, Jesus says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe in this, Martha?” Martha replied that she did believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Then Jesus went on and raised Lazarus back to life. He just resuscitated Lazarus. Lazarus won’t be any different than he was before he died. He will die again.

When Jesus died for us on the cross and was resurrected. That is a whole new way of being promised to us in our baptism.  We are to live with justice and compassion and mercy and kindness and love and to promote what is right and good that will be for everybody and not just for ourselves. We need to work hard at staying faithful by the Grace we have been given. We are part of God’s Holy People. The way we vote, the way we talk, the work we do, how we do the work we do, how we relate to our neighbors, how we relate to the world around us, how we relate to problems in the world ought to be governed, ultimately, by that gift of faith that abides in you and in me. This gift lets us know that the Grace of God has begun to take root in you and me. There is a change that has come over us in the years we have been living our faith. We’ve been becoming Holy. We may not think so, yet it’s been happening. We’re faithful in worship. We’re faithful in repenting when we sin and asking for forgiveness from God and from those we offend. Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we are thinking of others and are being generous to other people. We’re becoming less judgmental and not more. Those are the kinds of things we need to look at and see so we can say, “Thank you, Lord, for calling me and making me one of Your people. Thank You for your Grace that You give to me that helps me grow more into Your likeness, so I can share forever in the kingdom with the rest of those who have preceded me.”

We want to move away from anything that’s sinful, that pulls us away, that pulls us apart. We need to choose those things that pull us more towards the heart of God. The vision of the new Jerusalem that we heard about in the second lesson today. That new life is the one we are called to life. We are given the opportunity today to thank, to remember those who have preceded us in death, to pray for those who have died in this last year, for their peace and growth as they grow from strength to strength in the life of perfect service heavenly kingdom as it says in our funeral Rite I. We need to remember that we are on the same journey as those who preceded us were on. What we ask God to give to them in fullness is what we also desire to have. In the meantime, we are to do the work we need  to do with the love of God, the Grace of God and the strength of the sacrament that we receive this morning.

(Readings:  Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21: 1-6a; John 11: 32-44)

Note: The preceding transcript was from the 8:00AM video homily. The content is almost the same from the 10:15 homily by the same name.  The audio recording is in three formats:  AAC, M4A, and MP3. Download all or download the one you want to play–especially on your Smart Phone.  The AAC and M4A work best with Apple mobile devices.

On Becoming Holy.aac                                    On Becoming Holy.m4a                                          On Becoming Holy.mp3


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