This Sunday we celebrate the feast of All Saints and, as Father Frank reminds us in his article on the saints this week, this is a feast that celebrates our communion with one another, with the universal Church and with those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. It is wonderful that this weekend we will be able to open our churches, if only for a few at a time, to celebrate our communion around the altar of Christ. For many though, this will still not be possible and we will continue to provide our weekly Mass online as another way to stay in communion with each other.
During the coming weeks we hopefully will see more opportunities for our churches to open up to greater numbers. In the meantime, let’s continue to look after each other, our neighbours and our fellow parishioners, in the small ways that can make a big difference. In this way we can stay in communion with each other and assist each other through the coming weeks.
On the global level it is devastating to see the way in which communion among so many people across the globe is disintegrating and fracturing. Conflicts still rage in many parts of our globe. The last days have seen the tragic deaths of worshippers at the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice, France. This act of terrorism has been rightly condemned by both civil and religious authorities in France. No community should tolerate these cruel acts of violence and murder of the innocent and vulnerable. Violence of this sort can never be acceptable. The problem is that these violent acts often seed reciprocal violent acts and the cycle of violence and hatred perpetuates. The issues around religious freedom and secularisation in France, and indeed in many places of the world, are complex and deeply embedded in their cultural context.
Our world is in great need of finding ways in which people of diverse cultural and religious beliefs and backgrounds can live side by side. Difference is too often seen as a threat and one person’s belief as an infringement on the belief of the other. We are in need of both personal and communal ways of facilitating dialogue with one another. This is not an easy task. Dialogue requires an openness to listen and to learn. It requires the courage to change and the art of respectfully disagreeing with and challenging the (each) other. This is hard enough to do in a one on one situation. It is much more difficult on a communal level. And yet this task lies before us. The alternative is that human beings at worst kill each other, both metaphorically and physically, or at best drift into an indifferent tolerance of one another’s difference: live and let live.
Christianity teaches us that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. If we believe that, then we cannot allow violence and death to continue nor can we accept indifference towards one another. Instead, we are invited to open our lives to one another. The world will change as individuals and communities change. As we celebrate the feast of All Saints we might reflect on what it could mean to live in communion with the whole of the human race. That might lead us to simple acts of hospitality, not just towards our friends but towards those who we may consider different from us. It may lead to simple acts of compassion, trying for a while to walk in the shoes of the other whose view I find hard to imagine. It may lead to simple acts of inclusiveness, considering views other than my standard “go to” interpretations of the world.
Many of the saints just started in small ways and were joined by others. Let’s hope that on the feasts of All Saints, similar movements of human solidarity and dialogue might emerge.