The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
This week we have two separate yet very related liturgies — this Sunday’s lessons of God’s mercy for sinners and the solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1. The last paragraph in this Sunday’s Wisdom reading states that God “rebukes offenders little by little,” reminding them of their sins so that they may “abandon their wickedness” and believe in God. The lives of many of the saints, prior to their change of heart or conversion, were not always exemplary. But they came to believe in God’s mercy and strived to live saintly lives.
In Luke’s Gospel this week we hear of a Gentile named Zacchaeus who, so curious and taken by what he heard of this Jesus character, took to climbing a tree to view Jesus’ entrance into Jericho. As a tax collector and a Gentile to boot, he was someone with whom the Jews did not associate. Yet Jesus, the most Jewish of Jews, looked up and told Zacchaeus that today Jesus would be a visitor in his home.
A sinner and a Gentile, what would Jesus do next? But this is exactly what we need to remember every time we enter into that holy of holies, the church. In this space we, too, are assured that God will beckon us down from that tree and shower us with mercy and forgiveness.
When we attend these two liturgies this week, we need to look around at the saints depicted in our churches. Do we know anything about them? What was their cross? What was it that drew them to God and sainthood? Then we need to remind ourselves that the goal for all of us is to be a saint. We may never be named in the church’s official register, but we can most assuredly be saints. I have heard some wedding homilies where the priest has challenged the newlywed couple by saying that their most important gift of love to each other was to work for the sainthood of their spouse.
However, this challenge is not only for the married, but for everyone. The best way to build up the body of Christ is to live our lives as a path to sainthood and to support others along that same path. Many times I will look around and see people whom I truly feel depict saintly virtue. I cherish them, thank God for having them in my life and strive to be like them.
With whom do you identify sainthood? Many parishes during this week and maybe during the month of November will commemorate those who have died this past year (All Souls Day, Nov. 2). What a beautiful and profound reminder of our own mortality and the need for us to continue to strive for sainthood.
Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.