God is Wondrous in His Saints

First Sunday after Pentecost - All Saints

Heb 11:33-12:2
Matt 10:32-33,37-38;19:27-30

Did you know that each and every one of us is called to be a saint? It’s right there in the reading from Hebrews. After talking about all those Old Testament saints, the good they enjoyed and the difficulties they endured, Paul tells us that God had foreseen something better for us. He then urges us to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”.

Yes, we are all called to be saints. And, in our Gospel today, our Lord gives us three easily remembered principles. Easily remembered, but not always easily accomplished.

  • Acknowledge Him before men to be acknowledged BY Him before the Father
  • Love him above everyone else
  • Take up your cross.

Let me address them in reverse order.

Take up your cross. Today, when we think of the cross, we visualize the instrument of our salvation. But, when Jesus spoke these words, that was not what the apostles would’ve envisioned. The cross was a Roman instrument of torture and execution.

To take up one’s cross means to accept the torture and possible martyrdom that may come our way. As Paul writes in Hebrews, “Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented”.

But, today, our individual crosses probably won’t be quite so difficult. 40 Days for Life is an international movement or ministry dedicated to bringing about the end of abortion through prayer. Locally, it takes the form of praying in front of Planned Parenthood during 2 campaigns of 40 days during the year, and each campaign ends with a prayer service. These are not protests, not in the human sense, but prayer gatherings. Pretty much everyone involved is Christian, and the majority are Catholic.

Some years ago, during one closing service, we were greeted by members of an opposing group. They showed up with the obvious intent of disrupting our prayer, blasting their sing-song chant through a portable PA system.

Of course, we weren’t harmed, but we were irritated, we were mocked, and the service was not as successful as it could be.

How many of our clergy was imprisoned, tortured and sent to gulags during the years of the Soviet Union?

After the French Revolution of 1789, there was a two-year period known as the Reign of Terror. The episodes of anti-clericalism became some of the most violent of any in modern European history. The new revolutionary authorities suppressed the Church, abolished the Catholic monarchy, nationalized Church property, exiled 30,000 priests, and killed hundreds more.

The second principle, loving God above all else, is stated in an expanded version by our Lord. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”. Does this give us license to hate our parents or children? Of course not.

Consider the case of a young man. This man has a call to the priesthood. His father opposes that call and informs his son that, if he follows his vocation, he will be disinherited. Though he still loves his father, the son follows God, not his father.

Or consider a daughter whose Protestant parents oppose her becoming Catholic and subsequently entering a convent. Should she honor her parents’ wishes, or should she follow God?

The last principle, acknowledging Christ leading to His acknowledging you to the Father - that one is, in many ways, the most difficult of the bunch.

Our society today is increasingly built around denying Christ in one way or the other. Remember, He tells us that He is the Truth.

One current trend is the idea that we can change our gender, and that there are more than just two. But, our faith tells us that “God created them, male and female”. And science tells us that, genetically, there are only two genders, male (XY chromosome) and female (XX). No matter how many operations someone has, no matter how many artificial hormones they take, they still will have either the same XX or XY chromosome they were born with. To say that God made a mistake in creating us male or female - how is that acknowledging Him?

A few centuries back, people would say that blacks were inferior - for whatever reason. But our faith has always told us that black and whites have a common ancestry. And, in recent years, the science of genetics has shown that.

Denial of either of these is an implicit denial of Christ, because it is a denial of Truth.

But, defending the Truth in anything but a loving manner is just as much a denial of Christ.

Of course, there are more explicit denials as well. Some deny the divinity of Christ. Peter denied knowing him. Some acknowledge Christ, but then turn around and say that they will worship him the way THEY want, ignoring that the Holy Spirit has led the Church into the traditional forms of worship.

Our Lord doesn’t expect us to know everything - He IS infinite, after all, and His Truth is infinite. But he DOES expect us to follow Him, to acknowledge Him, according to the light we’ve been given.

As our second prokeimenon says, “God is wondrous in His saints, the God of Israel”.

Be a saint. Be part of God’s wonderment.