On the Sunday of All Saints, the Church directs out attention to those holy men and women, many of whom we will never know, to honor their holy lives. The Saints were those who put God ahead of all things in their lives. Christ gave us two very important ways to become Saints. We must confess Him in front of others, and we must love Him above all other things and people. If we are going to live as Saints, like God has called us, it begins with imitating the Saints.
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My brothers and sisters, today is Father’s Day, but it is also the Sunday of All Saints. And so I wanted to dwell this morning on what it means to be a saint, because if this is the Sunday of All Saints, it’s all of us are celebrating today. Not just because our saint is being honored but because we are called to be saints. Saint Paul calls us all to be saints. Christ says, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” All of us are called to be saints. So the question is, how do we become saints?
And this morning’s gospel offers us a couple very important shall we say descriptions on how to become saints. Oh, I lost it. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me,” Christ says, “is not worthy of me.” Christ says, “Whoever confesses me in front of other people, I will also confess in front of my Father.” These two basic elements, my brothers and sisters, is what will lead us to become saints. We have to learn to love nothing more than God, and we have to learn how to confess God in front of other people. Easier said than done.
One of the opportunities that we have to confess God is when we come to every divine liturgy, of course we read the creed. “I believe in one God, Father, Almighty, et cetera.” We pray that the “Our Father who art in heaven.” These public prayers of the church is one way that we have that we can confess God in front of other people. And when we confess God, he will confess us. This is Christ’s promise. This is how we can become saints.
And then how is it that we can learn to not put anything ahead of God? It’s Father’s Day. We’re honoring our fathers today. And for many of us, our temptation is to elevate our fathers up on a pedestal. And they deserve to be honored. Don’t get me wrong. However, if we put our fathers above God, then we have placed God in another category. And Christ says if we do that, even if it’s our mother and our father, we are not worthy of him. He goes on to say, “Whoever has left mothers or daughters or lands or anything, for my sake,” he says, “shall be replenished a hundred fold and have eternal life.” God’s got our back, if only we put him first.
This is why the church celebrates the Sunday of All Saints, a reminder that all of the holy men and women who came before us, the ones who were willing to put God first in their life, the ones who were willing to lose everything just for the sake of God. And we honor them. But sometimes I think we honor them without ever intending to imitate them. Oh, of course, Agia Markella, of course she’s a holy woman. Of course, Saint Sava. These were holy people and we honor them and we pray to them.
But do we bother to imitate their life? These men and women that we honor, that we paint the pictures on our walls of the churches, they put God first. We’re lucky if we put God second or third. Most of us in our daily life, God is an afterthought. If we have time, we pray. If we have nothing else to do, we go to church. If we have nothing better to read, we read the Bible. Let’s imitate these holy men and women that we honor today. Let’s have the courage and the strength to live the lives they lived.
They didn’t have easy lives. So if you want an easy life, Christianity is not for you. But it’s a life that can conquer the world, on one condition, that we don’t put anything above God and that we confess in front of other people. I remember years ago, I was maybe in college, I don’t remember when. I’m at lunch and I’m thinking to myself, I have to do my stavro, but everyone’s watching. And I remember one particular case. That particular day, I had courage enough to do my stavro before eating. And it drew attention. “Oh,” then people would start, “you think you’re something special?” “Not really.” And believe it or not, it was enough to get me to be more quiet. I wouldn’t even do my stavro in front of other people.
I know the temptation of not wanting to be made fun of. It wasn’t that I directly denied Christ, but I didn’t have the courage to confess him. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is the reward that God has promised us. And today of all days when we’re honoring all of the saints, take a moment when you go home today and read something about your saint. Even if it’s a paragraph, read something about your saint and then say, “Now how can I imitate that?” That would be a great way to honor the saints today on the Sunday of All Saints, because tomorrow we begin another fasting period.
And so tomorrow we have another chance to dedicate time set aside for God with prayer and fasting and taking care of the poor. We have another fasting period coming up, another opportunity for us to live the life of a saint. We practice here on Earth so when we get to heaven, we already know what we’re doing.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. We all need the practice. It starts by imitating the Saints. Glory to God for all things.
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