29 Nov The ones who are most remembered and whose virtues will never be forgotten | Homily for the Feast of All Saints of the Seraphic Order
The Custody of the Holy Land is hosting the 4thInternational Conference for the Commissioners of the Holy Land from November 26 to December 2, 2018 at St. Savior’s Monastery in Jerusalem. The conference is entitled “Pastoral Care for the Pilgrimage: welcome, memory, evangelization.”
For the feast of All Saints of the Seraphic Order, the Minister General, Br. Michael A. Perry, shared the following words at Mass.
It is written in the Book of Sirach:
“Yet these also were godly men whose virtues have not been forgotten; their wealth remains in their families, their heritage with their descendants…” (44:10-11)
My dear Brothers of the Order, dear friends of St. Francis, the Lord give you peace!
The words from the Book of Sirach speak about two closely related things. First, it presents a wonderful story of God’s desire that all human beings walk in trust and fidelity to the Covenant God has established with Israel. The second element is linked to the response of human beings, those who have publicly professed to be members of God’s Covenant people, who have pledged to place God above the pursuit of all other things, and to live out the radical ethical demands of the Covenant, to live in peace and harmony with all other human beings and with the created universe. The wise person is the one who welcomes the action of God’s grace in his or her life, who seeks always the will of God above all other things, and who never abandons the offer of God’s hope and mercy to all, over and over again, as if God never tires of forgiving those who have temporarily lost their way.
What is amazing in the presentation of Sirach is the place he accords to human beings in God’s plan of salvation. God has created human beings and instilled within each person the capacity to enter into relationship with God and with one another. At the same time, the writer also recognizes that all too often we human beings run away from God for one of several reasons. In the context of the times during which the Book of Sirach was written, sometime around the Maccabean revolt (180 BC), the lure of a materialistic culture promoted by the Greeks was making serious inroads into the minds and hearts of Jewish believers. People begin to place more trust in their own abilities to think, generate income, and accumulate goods and power, leading them to abandon, or at least to neglect, traditional forms of worship and sacrifice prescribed by the laws of the Covenant that were meant to help the people keep their eyes fixed only on God.
When we take our eyes off of God, off the transcendent reality that has the potential of opening our limited historical reality, and the reality of sin, to something much greater, we then begin to think and act like gods, believing that we have power to decide in all things, including the taking of innocent life, the promotion of violence and injustice, thinking only about ourselves. A recent book entitled “Homo Deus” (Yuval Harari, 2015) promotes this same idea of the supposed unlimited capacities of the human intellect devoid of any reference to any transcendental reality, to the existence of God and God’s involvement in daily human life. In the end, Ben Sirach seeks to remind us that we are not self-generated, or are we capable of generating all of the conditions necessary in order to live the mission and identity that God has entrusted to us.
This brings us to the focus of our liturgical celebration today. We are invited to make present through our prayers, and even more importantly by the way we embrace and live our vocation as missionary disciples of the risen Lord Jesus, all of the friars of the Seraphic Order – Conventuals, Capuchins, OFM, TOR, Poor Clares, Conceptionists, Third Order Congregations of religious men and women, Secular Franciscans, indeed, all who have sought to live the evangelical life, who ‘fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith’ (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7). We recognize that they were like us: simple, sinful, limited human beings, called to place their lives in the hands of God; called also to open their eyes, hearts, and hands to recognize the presence of the mystery of God everywhere in the world, and to respond by performing the deeds of God. In the end, those who are considered saints of God, the deceased members of the Seraphic Order who have sought to live their Gospel vocation with sincerity, integrity, and openness, and to live the double love command – love of God and love of neighbor – these are the ones who are most remembered and whose virtues will never be forgotten (cfr. Sir. 44:10).
As we call to mind the saints and holy men of our Seraphic Order, let us recommit to walking in holiness of life and to living fully the Rule and Life we have received from St. Francis, approve by Honorius III on November 29, 1223. Let us allow the grace of our baptism to bear fruit, to lead us to openness to life and to the presence and work of God everywhere (cfr. Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate 15), so that Christ might “accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power (of the Spirit) at work within us” (cfr. Eph. 3:20).
Happy Feast to all!