All Saints and All Souls Day
November 2, 2014
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
Early this morning, I received a text from our music director, Sadjie Guillermo that his mother passed away in the Philippines. Let’s take a moment of silence and pray for hope and healing in their family. Amen. She now belong to the stars in the heavens.
Today, we celebrate all Saints Day and All Souls Day.
I remember as a child, I would get up to our roof on a clear sky at night and look up to the heavens while lying on my back. I would intentionally find figures I was taught in science about big bears and other forms of constellations. I remember in the movies of people counting the stars so I did too, one at a time. One, two three, fifty, oh wait I counted that already. Oopps, the other fell and disappeared. It reappeared! Oh I can’t count them all. They are billions. Somebody told me that each star represents those who have gone to heaven. They are watching over us, as we dream of having a place there when our time comes to join them. They are the Saints in light. People who earned their shining stars because of their good deeds are being displayed in the heavens to remind us that we too deserve the merit and display our good deed among all people and the rest of God’s creation on earth. I am making a resolve today that I will strive to do what God requires me to do while I am living and aim to be one of the stars in heaven. I hope that I won’t fall and disappear from shining. God is my help to keep my light bright and shining here on earth as it is in heaven. And so are you. God calls us all to be part of the family of Saints. Count yourself in, it’s free. The only requirement is to strive to do what God requires us to do, to do justice, love, mercy and walk humbly with God.
Walk humbly with God. I like the Gospel today. It reminds us to walk humbly with God. It reminds us that in the kingdom of God, one needs to be humble to be able to get a sit at God’s reign. One can not say, “Hey, I’m guaranteed a sit at the table of God, but you? I doubt it” Neither one can say, “My Church is the true church and there is no salvation outside it” We need humility in service.
One day, a bus driver was driving a bunch of seniors – people in their 70’s and 80’s. They call themselves club 20 because they get 20% discounts in restaurants and pharmacies and even transportations. Soon, the little lady in the front row tapped the shoulder of the driver and gave him a bag of peanuts and the driver was thankful and ate them. Ten minutes later, she handed him another bag of peanuts and munched all of them again. Another ten minutes later, the old lady gave him another bag of peanuts. The driver said, “Thank you, they are delicious, but I’ve had enough, I finished two bag of peanuts.” The old lady said, “Oh, I didn’t want you to eat them, I just wanted you to throw them away for us.” “Throw them away? the driver asked, “Why don’t you eat them?” “All of us don’t have teeth anymore.” “So why do you but them?” He asked.
She said, “Oh, we like the chocolate around them, and after sucking them, we throw away the peanuts.”
Humility confuses a lot of people because it’s just like the chocolate covered peanut. We’ve mixed humility with other stuff that doesn’t belong to humility. We need to remove the chocolate. The Gospel says, “The greatest among you will be your servant. Al who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Let us take the context of humility as we celebrate All Souls Day and remember our love ones who have gone before us.
I remember back in the Philippines, a week before All Souls Day, our family would go to the cemetery and weed out the surrounding of the tomb of our love ones. Repaint the names and the color of the cross. Stick a candle on the head or the foot of the tomb and patiently wait for the priest to come around and bless the tomb. As a child, I remember asking the question “Why do we still visit the tombs of our love ones and pray?” Yesterday, I was asked by some members to visit their love ones in the cemetery for prayer. That same question came to the surface. “Why do we pray for the dead?” I then remember humility and love. You see, when you visit the graves of your family member, you get down on your knees and clean out the surroundings, offer flowers and pray thanking them for all the good things they have done which helped you to become who you are now. It is also because of Love that you visit them. When St. Paul said, “Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” He was talking about love that transcends beyond the grave through the boundless realms of eternity. Love does not end, as faith, hope do. On earth, we need faith in God, the hope of the resurrection and the love of God. But when we get to heaven, we don’t need faith and hope anymore because we come face to face with God in whom our faith and hope are offered. But love continues from earth to heaven. That is why love is the greatest. It is this same love that we pray and remember our love ones who have gone to where our Lord Jesus Christ have promised to prepare for us so that where he is, we may be also.
Just as we love and respect our living ones, so do we love and respect those of our loved ones who have departed this life. And just as we pray for the living that the Grace of God may be upon them, so do we pray for the dead that they may become worthy of the vision of God and be counted in the stars in heaven. Only by God’s grace that become partakers of the heavenly kingdom. Living or dead, we all need the mercy of God, thus we pray. The Church is composed of the living and the dead. We are all bound together by one faith, by common love. It is our duty to ask God as One Church, to be merciful toward the sinful souls of both the living and the dead.
Death and burial can not sever the Christian love which united the living with those who died. We continue to love our parents even after death. We continue to express love for them and it becomes real when we commemorate them in our prayers. We can communicate with the faithful departed in a spiritual manner only through prayer, in which we ask for the forgiveness of their sins and for their establishment in God’s heavenly mansions. We pray for them in the spirit of Love and forgiveness. Someone said to me one day, “Oh God, no, I don’t want to pray for him to be in heaven, he is the least thing I would like to see when I get there! I curse him to be in hell” I said to the person, “You are missing the point my friend. In heaven, there will be no pain nor sorrow, no more hatred but only everlasting love. Now, if you can’t picture that, you might as well prepare for hell”
My dear friends, the Gospel says, “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
It is better to walk with humility, with mercy and love.
Let us all strive to be Saints in light, here on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.