In his lovely homily for the Solemnity of All Saints, Year B, Father Hanly tells the story of the candelabra.
Readings for Mass
First Reading: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Second Reading: First John 3:1-3
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Recording of Homily
Transcript of Homily
(Apologies, the first part of this homily is missing.)
Anyhow, it was all very nice but I couldn’t find a decent candle, you see. I mean you could get the little red ones, the little white ones, but they were kind of, hmmm, not up to Easter, for some reason.
So I was talking to Ah Keung, our sacristan, and he brought me back to the church there. Behind the church we have where we keep not only all the sacred vessels that look beautiful, but we also keep where we throw things back and rather than throw them away we put them in cupboards.
So he shows me one of these, and he’s taking down these kind of candelabras, do you know. A candelabra is maybe four candles set together. Anyhow he brings back this piece of junk. I mean it was filthy. It was just awful. And I said, “What do you want me to do with this? You know we can’t use this out there, it’s not worthy.”
And then he gave me a cloth and the two of us sat down and we started shining it and taking the years of blackness off it. And it turns out that it’s silver, beautiful, beautiful, shining silver. And it took us about two hours, and out of it came this lovely, most beautiful candelabra. And so we used it for the sacred rites of Baptism and for the Easter vigil.
So, if you feel a little bad sometimes about yourself, you might feel, because you are just looking at the outer crustation of many things that happen, and you just need a very little wipe and you’ll shine like silver, because what you are is the candelabra and that is the important thing.
But what’s even more important is not to look at yourself, because some of us feel pretty good. But when you look at other people and you begin to judge them, you must remember that everyone that God creates is sacred, is a saint, is worthy of respect, is worthy of Jesus kneeling down and washing their feet, because they are indeed filled with the life of God and they are, in their essence, the lovely candelabra, whether or not it has seen tougher times and the inner meaning of it is covered in the some of the dusty earth that we have inhabited.
So I think if there is one thought that I would like you all to take away is, remember saints are not just people up in the sky that we love to be named after. And we follow them because they are the models. Models of what? The only reason a saint becomes one of those saints, recognised by everybody, canonised by the church, is because they gave examples of loving, love, God’s love. And they were great at it. Not because of any other reason: no miracles, no wonders, no wonderful sermons, nothing except they loved the people that came into their lives and loved them with God’s love. And because it was God’s love, the love of God shines through in their lives.
Now, this indeed is a wonderful thing. But the saints recognised that everyone who entered into their lives was like shining and mirroring God’s love.
And that is what we want to do today: not only treasure and praise the great saints who have been our great models through the years, but most of all we want to remember all the forgotten saints: the people who raised us, the people told us funny stories, the people who wiped our tears, the people who walked a few steps when we thought we couldn’t walk any further. People, ordinary people, people of the earth, people who if you said, “You’re a saint!” they would feel ashamed and say, “Oh no, not me.” And that’s the first sign of a saint: they don’t see themselves as saints.
So, I’d like to close this by just reading…
Before that though, tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. I sometimes tell these endless stories about all the funny people in my life when I was a child, you see. And one of the reasons I tell those stories is not because they’re funny and because they are attractive, but because all these people, these people tomorrow is their day.
We pray for all the souls. We pray for all those who are still journeying perhaps to eternal life, but also we pray for those who are already there but are unnamed, not canonized, but certainly they fill the heavens. Even in the first reading, they say there was armies and armies of people from all nations and these were the great saints that Revelations sees marching to and with and for eternal joy.
And now there’s a little a poem that I would like to, it’s an anonymous one, but this is his tribute to All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day.
“The saints are like windows. Through them the light of God’s wisdom streams into the world, banishing the darkness and brightening the road for uncertain travellers. Through them the warmth of God’s love radiates throughout the world, banishing the coldness, warming the hearts of even the most forlorn of his creatures. And through them we catch a glimpse for a moment of another world, a world that lies not just beyond the walls of our eternal home but even beyond the stars.”
So the next time you pray for all those Aunties and Uncles and people that have filled your life and made you what you are today and need and owe, you owe them to keep them in your memory, especially tomorrow, as well as today.
And remember that you are not the tarnished piece of junk that came out of the closet, you are indeed seen through the eyes of Jesus and the eyes of God, that beautiful and shining and radiant light to the world.
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This homily was delivered on 1st November 2009.
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