Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saints are people who leave the light on - for life

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.


  1. .....sometimes we don't really want it off or on - we opt for a "dimmer" - gives a kinder aura to our indecisiveness & duplicity - we end up deceiving ourselves, beguiling ourselves into pseudo saintliness....after all , can convince self in this life we are told that we see as " through a glass - darkly" ?

  2. Thanks for casting fresh light on this annual feast. Never saw it that way. Thanks encouraging us to turn on our lights and to keep it on!


  3. Dear Fr

    Your reflection offered words of encouragement that we're not alone in our struggle towards this goal in holiness (and of sainthood). You've raised my awareness that it is the choices that i make that will bring me closer to or draw me away from this goal. Thank you for spurring us to imitate the lives of the Saints.

  4. It's really good to hear from you again Father Luke after the 10-day hiatus. Hope to hear you blog about your pilgrimage to the holy city, Jerusalem. It must have been a 'saintly experience'. Glad that you have returned safe and sound. Welcome back!

  5. Dear Padre,
    Every Saint must have struggle through their most difficult time in their life, They must have live a life larger than what they can contain. Put through the test of time that the reach their Holy Beingness to become Saint.
    thank you for the Enlightment, In our most difficult time, Regardless we are on or off, we must never Despair and think that God has forsaken us. As He is alway very "ON"
    God grant us strength Amen

  6. dear fr luke,
    do you mean to say that everything has an explanation - that the lights act the way they do because they are 2-way switches and that the circuits are made to cut off when both switches turn toward the same direction?
    if everything has an explanation then do you believe in the big bang or the steady state theory for the universe? i just saw a program on tv. and what is the explanation for love? is it the presence of sin? perhaps the only good explanation for watches is that time exists but even then how can you tell if the time you see is the "right time"?
    i always thought you had been to the holy land before. i guess it is what the rumors say of you.
    love, sg

  7. Dear sg

    Thanks for the comment. You asked quite a few questions at one go, and I don't know if this is the correct forum to answer them. But I'll try.

    Firstly, you asked if everything has an explanation. The simplest answer to this is yes, everything does have an explanation, but often, it is either not our time to get the explanation, or we are not yet ready to accept the explanations. In fact, I don't even think that 'explanations' are the answers. Sometimes, it is the experiences of our lives that provide us with the ability to absorb the truths of life. You see this happening whenever it takes X number of years for someone who has lost a loved one to reach that point in time to live in a new space. I don't think the person has received adequate answers to the 'why' question, but the passage of time and the living of life has provided a new platform through which to view and live life.

    You asked about the Big Bang theory or the steady state theory. Both are cosmological theories, and I am wondering if your struggle has to do with whether this is compatible with Creation as we of the Christian faith who are not fundamentalists know it. As long as we can hold that the originator of life comes from God who is THE life-giver and THE creator, it shouldn't be too problematic which theory one holds. Contrary to what many think, the Catholic Church is not at odds with the theory of evolution. What we need to realise is that Sacred Scripture was never intended to be a text on the WAY of the creation of the earth and life as we know it, but THAT creation comes from God, who alone is the life-giver.

    I hope these snippets of answers to your questions will prompt you to delve further into these topics, if they are of deep interest to you.

    Gratefully yours

    Fr Luke