This Sunday, we will celebrate All Saints Sunday. Traditionally, this day celebrates the saints who have gone on before us. Traditionalists would only celebrate the lives of the truly beatified and the lives of those martyred for the faith. Many modern churches have expanded this feast day to become a day when we remember our dead.
Could we approach this day differently? Could we use this day to remind us of the saints we are called to become?
Certainly we can begin with the lives of our lost loved ones. What aspects should we invite into our lives? Maybe it's the charitable giving of our grandparents or our mother-in-law's hospitality. Maybe we would like to do more for the church, like sing in the choir. Maybe there are some spiritual practices, like daily devotions that our parents used to have with us as children, that could enrich us even now.
If those family members are still living, we should write them a note or a card. Some day, you'll remember them on this feast day. Write them a note of appreciation now, while they are alive to appreciate your gratitude.
And then, let us expand our meditations to others who have gone before, those whom we may have never met. That's the good news about All Saints Day and Reformation Day. We tend to forget that all the saints that came before us were flesh and blood humans (including Jesus). We think of people like Martin Luther as perfect people who had no faults who launched a revolution. In fact, you could make the argument that many revolutions are launched precisely because of people's faults: they're bullheaded, so they're not likely to make nice and be quiet and ignore injustice. They're hopelessly naive and idealistic, so they stick to their views of how people of faith should live--and they expect the rest of us to conform to their visions. They refuse to bow to authority because they answer to a higher power--and so, they translate the Bible into native languages, fund colleges, rescue people in danger, insist on soup kitchens, write poems, and build affordable housing.
The world changes (for the better and the worse) because of the visions of perfectly ordinary people--and because their faith moves them into actions that support that vision. If we're lucky, those people are working towards the same vision of the inclusive Kingdom that Jesus came to show us.
Soon we will be skating down the corridor which takes us to Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a time of breathless pace for many of us. Let us take another day to remember the souls of those gone before us. Let us think of our own mortal souls which will not be on this earth for a very long time. Let us resolve to strengthen our spiritual lives, so that we serve as living lanterns for those coming after us.