Sunday Scriptures

Goodness Never Dies

ON ONE HAND, I was very unlucky with respect to grandmothers. I was born in 1948 but both of my grandmothers died in the late 1930s. Whenever my classmates in school talked about their grandmothers, I always felt kind of sad because I didn’t have one, at least in this world.

I always imagined how wonderful it would have been if either of them – or better yet, both of them – had been healthier and stronger and had lived to meet me. The more I learned about them, the worse I felt because it turns out that both of them were women of extraordinary goodness and real Christian love. How nice it would have been to share in that love.

On the other hand, the more I learned about them, the more alive and shining has been this particular feast of the Church, All Saints Day. It is abundantly clear that Rosa Raso and Lillian Rossano are enjoying this day in heaven today, because it is the day that celebrates them and all of those who lived their lives so well in this world that they won a place – and quickly – in the world to come.

Heroic Charity

These two women, without ever having met one another, shared one central virtue: heroic charity. During the Great Depression, things were difficult, of course, and many found themselves with not enough to feed themselves and their families. So, in the Bronx (Lillian) and in Brooklyn (Rosa), they went out of their way to make sure that their neighbors and their children didn’t go hungry.

Rosa’s husband, my grandfather, owned a grocery store and she gave food to people who promised to pay my grandfather back after the Depression was over. (Very few did. My grandmother knew that would be so but …never mind!) Meanwhile, up in the Bronx, Lillian would look in the cupboard and the icebox and dig up something, time and time again, for needy people in her apartment house. Neither lady ever planned upon doing such good things, but when the chips were down for their neighbors, those neighbors found a blessing in them.

Today, we celebrate people like my two grandmothers. Of course, the halos of St. Therese, St. Francis and all the rest are shining brightly today but so are halos of those not so famous, who came to the crossroad of deciding between themselves and Christ, and chose Christ. They did so not without geat personal sacrifice, but with kind and good hearts. During their lives, they walked with the poor in spirit; they wept with those who were sorrowful and comforted them; they were meek and merciful, clean of heart and ready to sacrifice their own comfort and security so others could be at peace. Now they are rejoicing in heaven. In our Gospel, Jesus describes how to become a saint and those we remember today heard Him loud and clear – and then followed through. Their memories are a blessing to us and their prayers for us are powerful indeed.

Help Carrying Crosses

In the second reading, St. John tells us that if we are faithful to the Lord, we shall become like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. My grandmothers knew this and so not surprisingly, they were very much like Jesus. By helping others to carry their crosses, they helped Him to carry His own, just like Simon of Cyrene. All of the saints were loved by Christ because they loved others as He did.

In the first reading from the Book of Revelation, St. John paints a powerful image of heaven. In the midst of all of the glory is God and His angels, and also countless others who were tested on earth as to the goodness they were willing to share. They passed that test so gloriously that now their robes have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. One wins such a place in heaven by kind deeds done time and again on earth.

This is the decision that each of us is asked to make, and if we choose wisely in the Holy Spirit of God, wonders await us that we can only imagine now.

A Place in Heaven

All of us have known people like my grandmothers who had good and loving hearts. Those hearts didn’t make them famous in this world, and perhaps didn’t even give them long and healthy lives. However, Jesus saw them clearly and appreciated them completely. And today, all of us are honoring them for their places in heaven.

The goodness of my grandmothers ended too early in this world, but goodness never dies. I wish I could have known them. I missed having them in the front row on my ordination day. But wait, come to think of it, they were in church that day. They were cheering me on – and still are, from the place where you can always find saints – in the front row.


Readings for the Solemnity of All Saints  

Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14

Psalm 24: 1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12A


 

Father Anthony F. Raso is the parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights.

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