November starts with a vision towards Heaven with All Saints and All Souls days, as well as with a tradition of praying for the dead throughout the month of rain and perhaps snow. As we journey through this life and try to live our Christian vocation to be saints there are many pressures and expectations that can be present in our lives. These can be placed upon us by others or we can place these on ourselves: to try to improve our relationships, to grow in our prayer life and our spiritual life, to outperform ourselves in whatever it is that we are called to do, etc. As we place the emphasis on the “I” (I must do better, I must improve, I must overcome this struggle, etc.) our life can become very straining and our vocation as Christians can start to wear us out. When, on the other hand, we place our hope in the Lord, the only one who can heal us, the one who is the reason for everything we do, it is then that our Christian vocation will become one of joy and great hope. For, as St. John writes in his letter, “all who have this hope in God purify themselves, just as he is pure”.
In no way do I wish to undermine the need for constant conversion in our lives. We all have much work to do as we journey towards heaven. But my hope is that we will learn from the many saints who have come before us and are now with God. When we look at their lives we can see that they never relied on their own strength or their own abilities, but rather on the power of God’s mercy and love. They drew their strength from their intimate and loving relationship with Jesus. They were very conscious of their own weaknesses, of their sinfulness. They admitted to them freely for they learned to place their hope in the healing power of Jesus Christ and not in themselves.
As we celebrate these great feasts of all Souls and All Saints, as we look at the great hope of being with the Lord someday, of sharing in the great joy of Heaven with all the saints, with Mary our Mother, perhaps it is fitting to do a little examination of our lives. As I look at the people I live with, work with, pray with, as I look at my neighbours, my priests, maybe even those who frustrate me to no end, do I see people who are destined for heaven with me, or people whom I would rather never see again? Do I want to help them to get to heaven or am I looking for ways to stay as far away from them as I can? As we continue on our journey of conversion let us pray, through the intercession of all the saints, for the healing power of Jesus to come and touch each one of our hearts so that we may not be a hindrance to one another but a help on our journey towards heaven. And when we become impatient with each other perhaps the following poem can help us to relax a little:
I dreamed death came the other night, and Heaven’s gates swung wide.
With kindly glance, an angel then ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment, stood folks I’d known on earth,
Some I’d judged and labelled, “unfit,” or of “little worth.”
Indignant words rose to my lips? But never were set free,
For every face showed stunned surprise,
NO ONE EXPECTED ME!
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma