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Simplicity in the Saints

Friday, November 01, 2002

Solemnity of All Saints. Fr Peter Hunter preaches on how the simplicity of God is reflected in the plurality of his saints.

Every celebration of the Church is really a celebration of the goodness, the love, the truth, the holiness of God.

On Trinity Sunday, the Church focuses on the doctrine of God directly, but for most of our celebrations, we look at God as it were obliquely. We see his goodness reflected in Creation, we observe his relationship with Israel and most importantly of all, we see him come among us as a man, showing us divinity by showing us for the first time what it is to be really human.

We look at God obliquely because we can't look at God directly. In talking about what God is like, we feel we are groping in the dark, when really it is that we are made blind as bats by the blazing light that God is - Truth far greater than any human mind can grasp, Love more profound than any human heart can fathom.

The mystery of God isn't something too complicated, a puzzle with too many pieces, for people to work it out. On the contrary, God eludes us by his beautiful simplicity, by his being beyond our human attempts to break him into pieces that we can understand and then put back together again.

But when the profoundly simple God acts in our complex world, we see variety like nothing any creature could produce. God's love, God's goodness, God's truth are shown to us in an infinity of ways, like the myriad hues in a rainbow as pure, white light is scattered.

This variety gives us a way to see God obliquely, because his perfection is finally visible to us in a way we can perhaps grasp. Everything good and pure, true and beautiful, we can come to see as giving us a sidelong glance at the Source of all goodness, of all beauty.

We see this fantastic variety hidden in the simplicity of God when we look at the natural world, but even more vividly, we see it in the work God does by grace. Grace is just our way of talking about how God comes to live within us, working out through us his elegantly simple plan, but which is startling different for each and every person.

Through the calendar of the Church we get to see something of the variety of the saints, God's great works of grace, and because they each reflect some particular aspects of the goodness of God, we can come gradually to understand something of this goodness. We see the richness, the fruitfulness of God's goodness in the Church and maybe we can find some inkling of what God has in store for us personally, a saint whose life inspires our own, a guide to allowing God's goodness to shine in our lives in whatever particular way God has set aside for us.

Some saints show us loving courage or a zealous devotion to the truth. Others preach to us God's love for the poor and afflicted. Still others are great examples of wisdom or of care for God's people. Some affect us by their simple piety or their spirit of penitence.

In some we see people caught up in God's love almost from the very first moment of their lives, while in others we see a growth in holiness or even a complete conversion, a sudden turning to God from sinfulness to utter surrender. We need this variety for all sorts of reasons, and not least because the more oblique glances we get at God, the more impressive our image of what His goodness is becomes.

But one day a year it is good to see this great company of saints as a whole, gathered together. It is one of the only times in the year when we explicity celebrate the Church.

Of course, the Church is a place for sinners like you and me, as we will remember tomorrow when we pray for our dead. But we see most clearly what the Church is in the saints. We see those members of the body that work faultlessly, fit perfectly. We call them all to mind, those that have their own saint's day and the many in heaven who don't, some of whom we have perhaps been privileged to know personally.

We get to think of the whole, brilliant spectacle of God's love reflected in so many lives, and we get to thank God for it. Now isn't that something worth celebrating?

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Readings

Rev 7:2-4,9-14
1 John 3:1-3
Matt 5:1-12

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