Today’s homily is for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary time, Oct. 31, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.
A very Happy Halloween to all of you. As I’ve noted in the past, Halloween is a beautiful expression of our faith in God, in the Communion of Saints, the truth of life eternal, and an opportunity to reflect on the life and love of both Saints recognized by the Church, as well as those who lived and loved who are not canonized, yet have gone to their eternal reward nonetheless.
For Catholics, Halloween is not a day of ghouls and goblins, witches and warlocks. It is not about buckets of candy and endless decorations. For Catholics Halloween is a day of reflection. It’s when we remember and celebrate. We remind ourselves that our God is the God of the living and not of the dead. We who are alive body and soul, though we may physically die, our soul is eternal and belongs to the Lord. Our soul is bound up with each other, with God, and with the saints of the Church. That is the body of Christ, of which we are a part.
And so we celebrate this evening. We celebrate holy men and women. We celebrate lives lived in loving service to others that have gone on to receive their reward. We celebrate forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. The word “Halloween” is a contraction. It’s two words brought together to make one. The two words are “Hallow” and “e’en,” which is short for evening. Hallow e’en, means “holy evening.” October 31st is a holy evening because it is the evening prior to All Saints Day, tomorrow, and All Souls day, on the 2nd. On this night we remember and we celebrate.
On November 1st we celebrate those who have been made perfect, whose purification has come to an end, and who enjoy the fullness of the beatific vision for which we all strive. On November 2, All Souls day, we remember and pray for those we love who have physically died, and whose souls are now being made perfectly holy through the purification of purgatory. Not candy. Not lights. Not goblins, ghouls, and ghosts. Holiness, Godliness, generosity, and love. That’s what we celebrate today, to help ensure that where they are we might someday be.
And how do we strive for that holiness without which no one can see God? Jesus makes it very clear in the Gospel. We love. Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love. Period. That’s it. There is no commandment greater than these. The Jews had 613 commandments that hinged upon ten. And the Jews also knew that those ten hung upon only two. Today Jesus says, there’s really only one. Love.
This love that leads to holiness and salvation and eternal life with God and the saints of the Church is not an emotional, romantic, feels-so-nice kind of love, but rather a commitment, a promise, a sacrificial kind of love. Far more than sweetheart love, it is “I lay down my life for you” kind of love. That’s the cross. That’s love. Jesus teaches us that love is more than mere sentiment. The love that saves us starts in our heart, but manifests itself in the world as something real, tangible, and visible.
Jesus loved God. He went to the synagogue, the temple, and he prayed often. We too should go to Church, to holy places, and pray often. Jesus loved his neighbor. He loved when he healed a blind man, fed people, and instructed the ignorant. Jesus loved when he called God his father, forgave others, and prayed before meals. He loved when he healed a crippled man, when he confronted bad leadership, and not only confronted but demanded that in God’s name Satan step aside. And he gave his life for others, even those crucifying him. That is what love is about. It’s visible. Halloween is about the eternal witness of holy souls and saints. It’s that holiness is real, it can be achieved, and it leads to life everlasting. And it starts right now with love that can be seen. That’s visible.