Communion of the Saints
November 1, 2016
All Saints Day
Yesterday in Sweden Pope Francis marked the beginning of the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Augustinian canon Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral. His primary focus was on the selling and buying of indulgences to help finance the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome; but those practices were also symbols of a wider worldliness and corruption. His actions and the reactions of the Pope and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, fueled by changes in technology and the economy, growing nationalism and other factors, led to centuries of mutual recrimination and the further fracturing of the Body of Christ that had already seen a split between East and West.
Since Vatican II there have been efforts to heal these rifts, as well as those with the Orthodox churches, and to build bridges between the Church and other religions, most notably Judaism and Islam, the other “people of the Book.” However, healing centuries of alienation and even violence in the name of God will take a lot more time than 50 years and a lot more work by all concerned.
Today in our Solemnity of All Saints we remember all of the holy ones of every age who, canonized or not, have been exemplary disciples of Jesus. Collectively, we call them the communion of the saints. In their own times and in many different ways they embodied the Beatitudes. In this time of great divisions and animosities all over the world and sadly in our own country as we approach Election Day, their call to us is to join them and be
Poor in spirit when we are tempted to belligerence;
Mournful of our own sins and shortcomings rather than scornful of others’;
Meek in the face of bluster;
Merciful when vengeance is more politically expedient;
Clean of heart when the mud of corruption seems everywhere;
Willing to accept persecution if it is for the right reasons and values; and
Open to insult in being true to the one who bore insult and the cross for us.
November 8 will tell us at something about who we are as a nation. Each day can tell us something about who we are as followers of Jesus. To build communion on earth and especially in the land of e pluribus unum we need the help of those who are already experiencing it in heaven. All saints, pray for us!—JC