All Saints, November 1, 1999, 2001, & 2005 Abbey Church
We can't choose the life that is given us. Some of us are be wealthy, others poor. Some are famous, others unknown or even infamous. We are black, white, brown, red, or yellow. We are gay or straight or something else in between. Male, female, undecided; uneducated, highly educated, overeducated, or undereducated. Our first reading makes a point of all these differences.
But even though we can't choose the life that is given us, we can choose to use the resources that we have been given to make the world a better place, or a worse place. We just heard Jesus give a list of the people in this world who are blessed. Nowhere on that list do we find: "blessed are those who made sure that everyone around them behaved ", or: "blessed are those who made a lot of money or won elections or were good-looking ". Instead, we heard Jesus saying: "blessed are those who had their share of trouble in life and have loved and lost, but were still merciful, peaceful, and hungry for righteousness." Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
In a very real way, they are already in heaven, and heaven is in them. In the same way, we can be in heaven right here and right now every moment off our lives. We can see the world as the heaven it is created to be a beautiful place full of the blessing of God yet which is also full of sorrow and sin - and we can rejoice in the beauty while trying to alleviate the suffering. Unfortunately, we can also see the world as the hell that we make it a place full of our own fears and perceived inadequacies which we desperately try to cover up. The choice between heaven and hell lies in our own decision of how we will relate to the world around us.
Even though we can not choose the life we are given, we can transform it. When we choose heaven when we choose righteousness, mercy, and peace, then our own lives can bring heaven to those around us. In a similar manner, when we choose hell when we choose greed, condemnation, and strife, then our own lives bring hell to those around us. We all know that we have made both choices at different periods of our lives, and we still make both choices at various times of the day. We may not be super saints or super sinners, but we do influence people around us with our daily lives. As Mother Teresa said: "We don't need to do big things, we need to do the little things with love." In a way, doing big things to help people is easier than doing little things, because once the big thing is done, it is over and we can relax from being good. The little things, though, never end. We so often slip into the mode of bringing hell to our world by doing the little things in life without love, but rather with anger, greed, or pride. It is so easy to slip into that mode, because we just get tired from the daily grind of little things. That is why we can rise to the mode of doing the little things with love only by the grace of God.
God knows how difficult it is to always live in love, because God is one of us, and lived a life just like the rest of us with its ups and downs and never-ending chores. We might ask that since God knows how difficult life can be, why does God not make it better, not just for us fairly healthy and wealthy people, but especially for all those people in the world who live in desperation, sickness, hunger, and fear. We don't know the answer to that question, but we do know that we can choose to have compassion on those whose lives are so much more difficult than ours, and use our own lives to make the world a better place. We can use our own lives, no matter how unimportant we might seem, to transform the world around us by bringing heaven to our own little corner of the world through our own actions.
That's how we can all be saints by living our daily lives with mercy, peace, and meekness, helping to bring righteousness to our world. It is true that we should mourn over mournful things and not try to cover up or try to hide the wrong and harmful things in our world, but we must never confront those aspects of hell with our own hell. Instead, we should meet those things with the transforming love we are created to give. It's our own choice: to fulfill our vocations as saints by bringing heaven to our world, or to go our own way and bring hell to our world. It all revolves around the little things. May God help us in our daily lives as saints as we mourn, as we hunger and thirst for righteousness, as we grant mercy, and as we make peace. AMEN