The very last day of the liturgical year we receive again the solemn warning about how we conduct ourselves throughout the time of our exile. The end of the book of Revelation offers some hopeful prophetic words about eternity, but reminds us that we must raise our minds and hearts to the mystery of Christ. Our sins and shortcomings ought to trouble us to some extent – we shouldn’t despair of course, but we should use the distress we experience, our guilt and shame, to plunge ourselves back into the merciful heart of God.
The celebration of Thanksgiving Day is valuable to our American Culture. If we celebrate this day well, it allows us to live out our Christianity and values and push back against the encroaching secularism of our time. Thanksgiving, when we pause to consider its meaning, and when we decide to open our hearts and be thankful, is a natural pathway to God. As important as the history lesson of the “first Thanksgiving” might be – and as useful as it is to firmly ground our traditional celebration – it has to be about more than Pilgrims, Indians, planting corn and eating a big meal.
The Celebration of All the Saints is a unique kind of celebration. Generally, in the Church calendar we celebrate things or people specifically and individually. Occasionally we celebrate a whole group of martyrs – the companions of St. Paul Miki, the Chinese Martyrs, etc. When we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, we are invited to consider and rejoice at the reality of holiness in a more general way. The feast of All Saints isn’t just for the “ones that we missed,” but it is a reminder about the reality of what the core of holiness is and that heaven isn’t just an exclusive place for the elite heroes whose lives are a marvel to the rest of us. How discouraging it would be if you had to become famous in order to be sure you have a place in heaven. There are plenty of famous people, even famous Christians, whose holiness still isn’t enough to get them canonized. We are not trying to become canonized saints in this life. One of the requirements to become a canonized saint is to perform miracles after you die. If God wants you to become a canonized saint, He’ll help you do that after you die.