“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” This call of St. Paul to the Corinthians is high. Notice he does not encourage the community (in this passage) to seek the straight and narrow pathway of the Christian life alone, nor does he give a list of vague exhortations to follow. What does he do? He makes concrete the Christian life. Follow him, as he follows (present tense) Christ. He knows very well that we are tempted to get caught in the ideal, in the not yet, in the universal but not the particular. Therefore, the Corinthians were to follow him as an example of Christ.
Now, is it possible for you or me to follow St. Paul? Not as easily. The point remains, though, that the life of the saint, of the holy people of God, is not a vague or uncertain journey or mission. The life of Christ has been put on and lived by people who have gone before us. We call them saints. Does their possession of sainthood lessen my and your capacity to live this life or ‘possess’ this sainthood? Not at all. In contrast, their life is a testimony that sainthood is possible to live, that holiness, virtue, and purity are not obscure terms but invitations for us to say yes to… today.
Yes, we celebrate all saints who are in heaven. How did they get there? Did they not have St. Paul or someone else in their life call to them, “be imitators of me as I am of Christ”? The saints in heaven should inspire us to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. This should remind us “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29). This day is meant to inspire our hope and strengthen our perseverance. Did you read the Collect Prayer of today’s Mass?
Almighty ever-living God, by whose gift we venerate in one celebration the merits of all the Saints, bestow on us, we pray, through the prayers of so many intercessors, an abundance of the reconciliation with you for which we earnestly long.
Keep praying that. This life of grace is a fruit of that reconciliation with God. At the same time, the virtuous life is an opportunity to surrender our selfish desires and therefore be more closely conformed to and reconciled with God. Both bring about the other.
The Life of Heaven
Think about those who are in heaven. Whey passed through death and into life. Is this life they live now less than or more than their life on earth? Are they more fully alive and their joy complete now or before they died? As energizing and enjoyable as this life is and can be, it pales in comparison to the reality of heaven. This is corruptible, but heaven incorruptible. Read 1 Corinthians 15 for some details on that. Is their desire to be with Christ weakly met or is it over-abundantly fulfilled and active? It’s as if their race was not in vain, as if the sufferings of this present age no longer compare to what they experience in heaven.
With this in mind, can you apply the reality of their life to yours? What relation do they have to you? Can his or her or their life be a source of joy and strength for your perseverance? Further, can you see someone today as a model for Christian discipleship? Maybe it is the case that you have turned a blind eye to that disciple. Or, maybe you are the “only one you know” that cares enough to live an authentic life. Whatever the case, continue pressing forward to that supernatural call in Christ Jesus. Whatever the case, none of those reasons can be used as excuses for your own tepidity.
Today God is calling you into His divine life. Today we meant to celebrate those who have gone before us and rejoice in the victory we too hope to share in. Want to get practical? Study a saint’s life that you may relate to or appreciate. See what you can learn from his or her imitation of Christ. Second: live out St. Paul’s call. In other words, recognize that you need someone to imitate as he or she imitates and follows Christ. In the same breath, you are asked to imitate Christ so that another brother or sister may follow you. Finally and first of all: saturate yourself in prayer, so that you may draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Want to know about All Souls Day? Here’s a teaching on it.