Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 1 November 2015 – Holy Things For Holy People

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 All Saints Day – 1 November 2015 – Holy Things For Holy People

Click here for today’s scriptures

A couple of weeks ago I went to the birthday celebration of my 7-year old grand niece, Charlotte. She appeared at the party venue (Darlings and Divas!) all dressed up as Mal from Disney’s TV movie “Descendants.” This was way over my head. I needed to know more about the movie and the costume she wore.

In the movie Ben, the good teenage son of the King and Queen, takes the throne and offers a chance of redemption to teenagers. Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay were poised to follow in the footsteps of their bad parents.

But something happened. These siblings, who grew up surrounded by evil, started to hang out with children of goodness. Soon, they became focussed on self-confidence, personal responsibility and teamwork. They learned they did not have to grow up to be bad.

I thought my niece wanted to associate with bad players. Instead, by dressing up like Mal, my niece was advocating (in my theological mind anyway) conversion, transformation and redemption. I am sure none of this crossed even her wild imagination. Charlotte just wanted to be cool!

The gospel today lists a few of the eighty beatitudes that are sprinkled throughout the bible. This text was written long after Jesus lived. It was a time when a small number of powerful and wealthy families were ruling society. They were supported by bureaucrats, a mighty military and self-serving priests. They were not the good guys in this story. 

Each of the beatitudes falls into two parts. The first part describes the humiliation of the present, the second the glory to come. Jesus, always looking to turn things around, was quoted in this Great Sermon as paying attention to powerless people, outcasts and others living on the fringes of the community, who were just trying to make ends meet. [1]

The word “blessed” in Greek is “makarios” and can also mean “happy” or “fortunate.” It may describe someone who is in a fortunate position because they were recipients of God’s provisions or favors. “Highly esteemed” or “honored” is another way to think of the word. [2] High esteemed are those who are merciful for they will be shown mercy (by God).

By announcing these beatitudes or favors Jesus brought a fresh interpretation to worn out teachings. This is something that wise spiritual leaders do every so often once they learn from their members or followers that certain beliefs or customs no longer provide adequate sustenance for living. 

As Pope Francis remarked about the Synod on the Family, “It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.” [3]

Too many people are struggling to survive on this planet near and far. Whether fighting for a dignified minimum wage in this country or seeking refuge in other lands many are not happy and do not feel blessed by God. As long as goodness and mercy are replaced by “blinkered viewpoints” they will never experience God’s fortunes and provisions.

Today, All Saints Day, comes in between Halloween and the Day of the Dead. It is a triduum that reminds us life is complicated, full of fears and happiness at the same time. We put on masks and costumes to scare away what is bad. We dream of a happy endings for ourselves, perhaps surrounded by angels and saints. We invoke help from our deceased spiritual ancestors who have endured this journey before us. 

Living and dying, successes and sufferings, are part of the same human story that cries out for mercy and compassion. Life requires a constant eye to reform governments, societies, religions or any system that deprives people from experiencing God’s free blessings and favors.

The icons in our church are looking at us, reminding us that we are not alone and that we, too, are holy ones. We belong, in a mysterious and holy way, to an exemplary family of men and women, saints and sinners, who, by their faith and good works, have contributed to the common good.

My great niece, Charlotte, and her little friends seem to grasp in a very young and playful way that being good is much better than being bad. Highly esteemed and happy are these little peacemakers, all children of God. They hunger and thirst for peace and justice in the world. With our help they shall be satisfied.

____

  1.  Duling, Dennis in Attridge, H. (Ed.) The HarperCollins Study Bible Revised Edition (San Francisco: Harper) 2006, page 1667
  2.  Pilch, John. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle B (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 1995, 28-30
  3.  Pope Francis. “The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy.” Vatican City, 24 October 2015 (VIS) 
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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

4 thoughts on “Homily – 1 November 2015 – Holy Things For Holy People

  1. As human beings we manage to find the playful as well as the serious side of our journeys through life and death. Thank you, Richard, for bringing this all together today; a very hopeful picture!

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  2. Sometimes we put on masks not to scare away others, but to avoid frightening ourselves. We refuse to look in the mirror, because what we will see is that image that frightens others; and if we took the time to examine that image, we might realize that we are offensive, ugly, and distant — but, we “blame” those who turn away from us. Yet, we are the ones who have chosen the mask that others see. What we choose is, indeed, a reflection of who we are. And we don’t always like to see the reality of our choices.

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  3. I love this perspective and the exciting HOPE it brings! Your expliction of the Beatitudes reminds me of work I did as an undergrad with a Slavic professor (a Structuralist/Formalist/Semioticist) on the Sermon on the Mount…what rich scriptural fare!

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  4. mea culpa…EXPLICATION…darned touch pad!

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