Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints.
“Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” Over the past several years I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Mother Mary Catherine. Mother Mary Catherine is the mother superior of the Missionaries of the Word, a religious community of women in the Diocese of Green Bay that was formed in May 2014. This is actually Mother Mary Catherine’s home parish. She grew up in a house here the neighborhood, just a couple houses down from the rectory. But before becoming a founding member of this new community, Mother Mary Catherine was a principal at Aquinas Academy in Menomonee Falls and before that she served with Mother Teresa’s order—the Missionaries of Charity—for about ten years. And when Mother Teresa would come to California to visit her sisters, Mother Mary Catherine would drive her around. She was kind of like her chauffeur.
One time Mother Teresa and Mother Mary Catherine stopped at a restaurant to eat. At the table next to them was a father and his young daughter. The girl was eating a large, juicy hamburger with lots of ketchup on top. She was eating quickly and taking big bites. Her father kept patiently reminding her to slow down and to take smaller ones. She was stubborn and wouldn’t listen. Finally, she took the fatal bite: the burger fell apart and the remaining ketchup squirted onto her face. On the verge of tears, just as she was about to let out a giant sob, her father leaned over to her and kissed her smack-dab on her ketchup-stained face. He then gently wiped off her face and his. Mother Teresa, who had been watching all of this unfold, turned to Mother Mary Catherine and said, “And this is what God the Father does for me every day.”
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” A parent—a good parent—is willing to bear the stain of their child. They’re willing to bear the mark of their child’s mess, because they love the child. Imagine a mother wearing her Sunday best. She just finished feeding her child and is about to burp him. She places a large cloth strategically on her shoulder. Maybe this once, just this once, the child will hit the cloth instead of hitting her dress. She has no such luck. Her dress becomes the world’s most expensive burp cloth. But she’s willing to bear the stain of her child, she’s willing to bear the mark of her child’s mess, because she loves the child. Imagine a father is wearing his Sunday best. His son comes running inside after falling off the swing. His face is a work of art—it’s a Picasso of tears and snot. He heads straight for his father and buries his face in his father’s suitcoat. The suitcoat becomes the world’s most expensive Kleenex. But the father is willing to bear the stain of his child, he’s willing to bear the mark of his child’s mess, because he loves the child.
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” We are God’s children. And the Father is willing to bear our stains. He’s willing to bear the marks of our mess, because He loves us. That is why He sent His Son to suffer and die for us. That is why sent His Son to be nailed and pierced, bloodied and bruised. He sent Him to bear our stains and the marks of our mess; to take on all our sins—each, and every one of them. And He did so because He loves us.
A saint is not a person without any mess. Mother Teresa and all the saints knew that well. A saint is a sinner who brings their mess to the Lord, who goes before the Lord face-to-face, even when their face is covered with ketchup, puke, snot, or tears. A saint is a sinner who allows the Lord to kiss them and embrace them in their mess, who allows the Lord—who has already born their stains and the marks of their mess—to cleanse them from their sins. A saint is a sinner who reaches out in faith to touch Jesus’ wounds, knowing that it is by His blood that we are washed clean, by His wounds that we are healed (Cf. Isaiah 53:5).
No matter how long this pandemic lasts, no matter what happens this Tuesday, the only great tragedy in life—the only tragedy for which heaven does not have a remedy—is not to become a saint. In heaven there is joy for all other sorrows, healing for all other wounds, restitution for all other injustices, except this: not to have become a saint. So, on this Solemnity of All Saints, let us recommit ourselves to becoming the saints we were created to be. Let us recommit ourselves to bringing our mess to the Lord. If there has been any new discovery during this pandemic and this election season it is this: that we all have a lot of mess, and that a precious few of us have brought our mess to the Lord. Let us remedy that. Confession times are this Thursday at 5 p.m. and next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. You can also give Fr. Ken or I a call and set up an appointment. No matter what happens this Tuesday, we’re not going anywhere. Never be afraid of coming to us for confession. As your spiritual fathers, we’re happy to bear your stains and the marks of your mess, because we love you.
“Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” Amen.