The Joy of the Saints

The Rev. Becky McDaniel. This sermon is based on the Collect for All Saints’ Day and Luke 6:20-31.

Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you.

Ineffable joys.  While preparing to preach on this day, for this All Saints service, I kept returning to these two words in the collect for All Saints Day.  Ineffable joys.  This is something to sit with.  Inexpressible, beyond description, joy.  And joy is not the same thing as happiness, or contentment; joy is closer to exhilaration, or even rapture.  And this is what God offers us when we truly love God.  Wow.  This is what God has already given to the saints and is prepared to give to us.  Think about that for a moment.  Think about what an amazing grace this is.  Think about the loved ones we have lost this year and the promise that is being fulfilled in them now: their ineffable joy.

But perhaps the most beautiful part is that we actually don’t have to wait to catch a glimpse of these ineffable joys, because we already have the saints with us.  The saints are with us in the present moment, if only we would allow ourselves to connect with them.  The saints are real, living extensions of God’s love given by grace to commune with us in this life: to bring blessings of laughter to those who weep, to bring blessings of nourishment to those who hunger, to bring blessings of the kingdom of God to those who are poor.  The saints offer us companionship, consolation, and deep love.  When we need it most, the saints offer us their ineffable joy.                                          Recently I have been re-reading portions of The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton’s spiritual autobiography.  Merton’s journey is a wonderful example of a man who truly communed with the saints.  Not only studying their lives, but speaking with them, praying with them, developing true   spiritual friendships with the saints of the Catholic Church.  Thomas Merton described his discovery of the saint Therese of Lisieux as one of the “biggest and most salutary humiliations” he ever had in his life.  He wrote that “the discovery of a new saint is a tremendous experience: and all the more so because it is completely unlike the film-fan’s discovery of a new star.  What can such a one do with his new idol?  Stare at her picture until it makes him dizzy.  That is all.  But the saints are not mere inanimate objects of contemplation.  They become our friends, and they share our friendship and reciprocate it and give us unmistakable tokens of their love for us by the graces that we receive through them.  And so, now that I had this great new friend in heaven, it was inevitable that the friendship should begin to have its influence on my life.”  Merton credits Saint Therese of Lisieux with helping him to write letters to his brother while he was in the Canadian Air Force.  He credits her for helping him to establish his own rule of life, and to follow it.  He credits her for inspiring him to pursue mission work with the poor in Harlem.  His story is a great reminder that we do not act alone.  We live and move and have our being in communion with God and with the saints.  The boundaries between us and the saints are thin indeed.  Their light and their love are here for us now, if we would just receive it.  If we would just enter the dance and be joyful, as we sung today in the psalm.

I would like to invite you now to take a moment in silence to not only remember the saints, but also to feel their presence, to know in the depths of our hearts that they are with us now.  Know that the bonds that we have with one another are not broken by death.  We are bound to each other in the living Christ.  Through Christ, the veil that separates this world from the next is permeable.  [PAUSE]

On this holy day, let us go forth with joy and triumph in the knowledge and love of the saints.  Let us rejoice that we are never alone, that we are ever bound in love and friendship with those who have gone before us.  Let the eyes of our hearts be enlightened by this deep grace.