These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. (1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13)
What a powerful description of ministry! It resonates with me as I look back over 45 years as a priest, but it’s not an image you hear much about in seminary. In fact, Pope Francis was sharply criticized for encouraging mothers to breastfeed their crying infants if they got hungry during the two-hour service of baptisms in the Sistine Chapel. As the pope said to the mothers present, "And if your children are crying because they are hungry, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus.”
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? Of course not! . . . For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. (Rom 11:1-2, 11-12, 25-29)
In the past Christians have used isolated passages from the Scriptures to justify antisemitism. Following the teaching of Saint Paul the Second Vatican Council strongly condemned antisemitism in all its forms. Saint Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) was Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Italy, and attended the Council of Trent. He is responsible for the founding of seminaries and of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD).
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me. (Jn 10:27)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord always calls his own as he called Martin de Porres (1579-1639). Matin was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman. Martin was of mixed race: his mother was a freed African slave of Native descent. They were abandoned by the father and under Peruvian law, being mulatto, Martin had no rights. He was finally accepted by the Dominicans who gave him menial tasks to perform. He worked in the infirmary and was known as a healer. I remember when he was canonized in 1962. My mom was working at Blessed Martin de Porres Hospital (a Black maternity hospital run by the Sisters of Mercy). After the canonization the hospital was renamed, Saint Martin de Porres. The shiny new “saint” letters stood out on the hospital sign!
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. (Wis 3:1-9)
Give rest, O Christ, to thy servants with thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more; neither sighing, but life everlasting.
(Russian Kontakion for the Departed, Orthodox Liturgy)
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen. And may their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen." (Rev 7:9-12)
Today’s Feast of All Saints and tomorrow’s Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed form two moments of one feast—remembering and celebrating all the faithful ones who have gone before us and handed on the faith to us. As we say in the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the communion of saints." Happy Feast Day to them and to all of us! May we follow them walking in the footsteps Jesus.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God. (Rom 8:18-25)
The revelation of the children of God . . . the “present time” with all its problems can make us despair that things could ever get better or be different. Saint Paul sees the sufferings as evidence of the LONGING and the EAGER EXPECTATION for what God has in store. I think this old world is going to be surprised at that revelation and also at the glory.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God . . . and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom 8:12-17)
To be “led by the Spirit of God” . . . helps us to understand the image which the Second Vatican Council proposed for the church: the church as the Pilgrim People of God. A pilgrim people is a people on the move . . . as Jesus himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” And it is the Lord who invites us: Come, follow me.