One of the rooms in this parish is a large hall that has two doors at opposite ends. The light switches are located, as most light switches are, just next to the doors. I have come to realize that these are two-way switches, allowing us to switch on the lights no matter which door we enter the room by. Sometimes the switch appears to be in the ‘on’ position, but the lights remain off, and I have to switch that switch ‘off’ in order to have the lights come on. As long as both switches are at the same position, whether ‘off’ or ‘on’, the circuit is broken. I’ve known this for the longest time, but it somehow came to me in a new ‘light’(pardon the pun) in my meditation on the Solemnity of All Saints this morning.
Who are these Saints that the church holds aloft today? Simply put, they are the heroes of our faith, who have shown that it is possible to live a life of holiness, not without its challenges and tests. Through their life-choices and their loving ways, they have lighted their way to behold God ‘face to face’ at the end of their lives. Of course, this phrase “seeing God ‘face to face’” is simply another way of saying that there is no longer any barrier between them and God. In heaven, all barriers are lifted.
What have saints switched ‘off’ in their lives? It could be one of the following: sinful and selfish ways and views of life; acts of pride; being mean-spirited; ego centeredness; anything that panders to joys at the expense of their brothers and sisters, and the like. I don’t think they succeeded all the time, but by and large, they knew what needed to be done, and they strived to attain that. There’s a familiar phrase that sums this up. It’s called ‘dying to self’.
What did they switch ‘on’ in their lives? Anything that was of God, helping them to experience and encounter God in love. Their outreach to the troubled; their loving of their enemies and those who hated them; their insatiable thirst for the justice of God; their realization that they needed to rely on the mercy of God. There’s another familiar phrase that sums this up. It’s called the quest for holiness.
I believe that their journey in life towards God is something that all of us struggle with as well. Some of us are a bit more aware of this, and because of this, the struggle is a more conscious one than for others. I don’t think it’s hard to leave the “God” switch at the ‘on’ position. For baptized Christians, it’s almost a given. But the other switch is the problematic one. Part of us wants that off, and part of us wants that on.
On a solemnity like All Saints’ Day, the Church hails the heroes of our faith who fought that fight of the switches, and kept the light of their faith glowing brightly. Not just for themselves, but more importantly, for all of us on our journey of life. Left on our own, we’d probably be left in the dark. But with these partners of prayer, spiritual giants who pave the way and pray for us, our choices become a bit more enlightened and we are shown again and again that it is possible, and yes, even necessary to reach that goal of sainthood. After all, as American Theologian Fr Robert Barron has said so aptly, there is no greater disappointment in life than to not be a saint. Let us strive to make that our shared spiritual quest. Happy Feast Day everybody, and leave the light on because there are some of us still living in the dark.