There appears to be overwhelming evidence that we share a common ancestry with the animal world and that our remote roots go back quite literally millions of years. This is the 150th anniversary of the voyage of the Beagle. The insights of Charles Darwin have coloured our view of ourselves and our world. We hold in our hands the incredible variety and beauty of creation along with the cold restlessness of ‘survival of the fittest’. A restlessness endlessly challenged by the human experience of compassion and mercy.
The readings of the Eucharist for the feast of All Saints remind us that we are not just the accidents of an evolutionary process but are touched by something of the divine – we are in the words of St John “already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed”. We are still growing – one could say evolving, into a new creation.
The quality of that ‘new creation’ is found most profoundly in the person of Jesus of Nazareth – in whose life we discover the limitless riches of what it is to be a compassionate, merciful, forgiving, generous human being and the price that is paid for living such a life, challenging as it does the power structures of the ‘survival of the fittest’ mind set of our world.
The feast of All Saints is a celebration of the countless people whose lives have been touched by the example of Jesus of Nazareth. Not just the obvious St Francis’s or St Therese’s of our tradition but the so called ordinary people who have touched the lives of others by their compassion and generosity of spirit. Murmur name upon name of those who have graced your life and you will begin to move into the mystery of this feast and discover that you are literally standing on holy ground.
In the Celtic Tradition of these Islands this time of year is called Samhain. It marks a significant divide in the year’s cycle – a movement into the dark but creative time of the seasons of the year. It was known as a ‘thin time’ – a time when it was possible for movement to take place between the Two Worlds of the Celtic Imagination. It was a time of creativity and mystery, not without the possibility of discomfort and danger. The ‘trick or treat’ celebrations of Halloween with the emphasis on ghosts, witches and all things that go bump in the night are a pale reflection and mere shadow of this ancient tradition. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls are more than likely a Christianisation of that tradition. Reminding us that to live as followers of Jesus is to live in ‘thin times’ – to live as beatitude people
- To be on the side with those who have no status
- To grieve in solidarity with those who have lost their identity
- To be open to the possibility of God’s action in our world
- To hunger for justice and peace
- To be merciful in all cases without exception
- To live in integrity and truth
- To actively pursue the cause of true peace (Shalom)
- To be open to the possibility of rejection without bitterness
The poet Brendan Kennelly in the poem “The Good” reminds us that..
“The good are vulnerable
As any bird in flight,
They do not think of safety,
Are blind to possible extinction
And when most vulnerable
Are most themselves.”
He concludes the poem with these two lines
“I think that I know one or two
Among my friends”
The first reading of the Mass for All Saints is an affirmation that far from there being only ‘one or two’ the numbers are impossible to count of those who have born witness to the life and teaching of Jesus. The question for each one of us is:
“Can I add my name to the list?”