All Saints Day; Year B (Nov. 1, 2015)

Lessons:
Isaiah 25:6-9
or Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm 24 (5)
Revelation 21:1-6a
St. John 11:32-44

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

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St. John 11:32-44. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

What Is a Saint?

francisFrancis was a Saint. We’ve been more aware of this these past thirty-two months than we have been for some time, because the current Pope of the Catholic Church took the name Francis.

Born in 1181, Francis grew up living the good life. He was happy, charming and a born leader. He dreamed of being a noble; a knight. Francis believed that battle was the best place to win glory and prestige, but after a failed attempt to achieve glory in battle he returned home, and earnestly prayed to God for a purpose in life.

While he was praying at the church in San Damaina, he heard Christ on the crucifix speak to him, “Francis, repair my church.” He first thought he was to address this ancient church building, which was suffering from disrepair. But in time, Francis understood that God wanted him to lead the church back to faithfulness and he began to preach about returning to God and obedience to the Church.

He was struck by three Bible passages: the command to the rich young man to sell all his goods and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. Francis believed these stories were intended to shape his life, and the lives of those who would follow Christ with him. He was proposing to do what no one thought possible any more: to live by the Gospel. He began to sleep out in the open, to reject possessions of any kind, and to dedicate himself to acts of mercy and kindness.

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope on March 13, 2013, his choice of the name Francis was consistent with his long focus on being a man of humility, mercy and concern for the poor. We shouldn’t be so surprised at the extraordinary character of his words and actions. He was inspired by St. Francis — and he learned well!

Which is, in some ways, an answer to the question, “What is a Saint?” First, a Saint is someone whose life has been shaped by the word of God. Saint Francis and Pope Francis were both interested in humility, poverty and the poor because this is what they saw in Christ. Second, a Saint is someone who inspires others to lives of faithfulness. As Saint Francis inspired Jorge Bergoglio (and as Pope Francis, although not declared to be a Saint by the church, inspires us), we see that a Saint is one who can stir others in powerful ways.

The Saints inspire us to trust that in Christ we have the fullness of grace and forgiveness. The Saints inspire us to become instruments of mercy and love. The Saints inspire us to care for the poor as if we were caring for Christ himself.

Which Saints have inspired you? And how has it made a difference in your life?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did the church declare Francis of Assisi to be a Saint?
  2. How does Jesus live in a way that proclaims humility, mercy and care for the poor?
  3. What does this have to do with Jesus’ command to, “Unbind [Lazarus], and let him go?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Which Saints have  most impressed me?
  2. Who, in my life, has inspired me to live my faith more fully?
  3. In what ways has my life been shaped by the witness of these Saints?