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The Communion of Saints

All Saints

We heard: John, the Seer, saw what cannot be seen with the eyes of your head. He looked into heaven, entered where God is and saw, “a multitude that no one can count.” In that crowd are not only the holy people officially canonised by the church, no, that crowd consists of all those who belong together because they have lived out of the holy secret of love that makes live, the secret of God. In their community the boundary between life and death was nullified. They have gone the way to God, “here on earth as in heaven.” All Saints is the one and big feast of the sacred secret that connects people, the secret of the living God who is life-giving, on earth as in heaven.

“What is your name, who are you?” Jesus once asked a hopelessly confused man from Gerasa, you know the story. That man says: “I don’t really know, my name is Legion, there are many in me” (Mk 5, 9, Lk 8, 30). This applies to all of us. We are all people who are inhabited by many other people. Just reflect, tonight, tomorrow on All Souls, or just for a moment now, all those people living in you: parents, grandparents, family members,  monastery family, friends and girlfriends, people of the church, people not at all from the church, people from a short time ago or long ago, living and dead, people are alive in you now. We are inhabited by them, they by us, in the one secret of God who is ‘the totally Alive’.

We believe: “in and through God we live, move and have our being” (Acts 17, 28). That applies to all people, so also to the deceased. Because we live in God we are connected with all those other people who also live in God: one great community of people who live in and through the same sacred secret of the living God. That goes without saying, you do not have to study theology for that. Think of the people who love you and who you love. They have become a part of you, you realize that you are living in each other, giving life to each in an ordinary human way and receiving life from each other, that you live, move and are in each other’s life, and you taste something of eternity, something of the secret of God,  something of heaven on earth. We are inhabited. By some people whom we call ‘the saints’, because they have done so in an eminent way: handing on the life given by God. But in addition, by very, very many ‘ordinary’ people who have done the same in their modest way. And when you look at those two kinds of people long enough, it starts to dawn on you that the distinction between them is artificial. They are all holy people, people inhabited by the holy secret of God.

I personally think first and foremost of Jesus and his Gospel, of all those people who by their lives have turned the Gospel score into a lively song: of my mother who gave me her love for the Scripture, of some Jesuits who gave me the taste of theology, of St Augustine who has become more family of mine than most of my family ever were, of Benedict and Cardinal Newman, the disillusioned  Preacher of the book of Ecclesiastes, the poet of Psalm 16, Job with his endless worries, Meister Eckhart from whom God hid almost nothing, the horribly neurotic life of Theresia van Lisieux, Mozart who, with his music makes my heart sing more than the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Jewish philosopher Wittgenstein of whom I, even though he was already dead, have learned to think. Their life, my life. Each of you has such a private gallery. In this way, together, we form a crowd that no one can count: an immense crowd by whom we are inhabited and surrounded (Hr 12, 1).

Of course, there is death, we are mortal people, exceedingly finite. Death casts its shadow over you during your life: with devastating doubt, in loneliness, when you feel remorse about something irreparable, or when you no longer see any point. A grave before your last grave. But there is, we believe, escape from that death, you can live beyond it by living out of love because God is love. “We know that we live beyond death when we love our brothers and sisters” says John the Seer in his first letter (1 John 3, 14), because then we live in the holy secret of the living God, on earth like in heaven. Heaven is where God is and where God is, there is heaven, so there is that great community of people living out of that sacred secret, within the church, outside the church, everywhere. God does not live somewhere apart, there is also no place where you are alone with God. He lives and moves in all that is life, and when you really live, live in love, then you are in God and therefore in heaven. That is why heaven begins on earth, not as a final resting place, but as a place of living.

“We know (said John) that we live beyond death when we love.” But he continues: “we know that whoever does not, loves not, is dead already and will remain dead. “Heaven, a great community, a crowd that no one can count of people who live in the holy secret of God. How do you get there? Jesus shows the way. “Blessed are you, you only really live, you are on your way to heaven as …” and you add: “if you are poor in spirit, hunger and thirst for justice, live without violence, are merciful, with a pure heart, as a bringer of peace. “” Blessed. A good translation of the Greek and Hebrew word is: “Stand up, get going, start, go and live that way.” For then you are on your way to heaven, and you know: ‘the way to heaven is heaven. “

Today we remember all the holy people with whom we share the one and holy secret of God. Boundaries fade in heaven. In this community, all man-made boundaries, boundaries of time and space, confessional boundaries blur. All those people who passed on real life are there, the Buddha is there, Gandhi, the great peacemaker Nelson Mandela, Bonhoeffer, and Abraham Lincoln, to name but a few. Today we remember all the people by whom we are inhabited and with whom we live, move and are in the great secret of God’s life, all those people here on earth who, knowingly or unknowingly, wanted to live the Beatitudes and to pass beyond the inevitability of death. They are, all “marked”, we heard in the first reading, they bear God’s hallmark: “Made in heaven”. And we, we desire to be included in their community, on earth as in heaven. Amen.

André Zegveld

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