Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 27
Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44 Unbind him, and let him go. I do not suppose there is any such thing as a patron saint of All Saints Day, since as the name implies, the day itself belongs to all the saints. But if such a day could indeed have a patron saint or sponsor, I think it would have to be the late Pope, John Paul II, who reputedly canonized more saints in his quarter-century in the Vatican than all previous popes combined going back to at least the Reformation; by some estimates nearly five hundred saintly individuals. We Anglicans do not of course have an elaborate process of canonization as do our cousins in the Roman Catholic Church. Those who were considered saints before the Reformation remain saints today in the Church of England and other parts of the Anglican Communion. And nowadays, each branch or province of the Anglican Communion makes its own rules for raising up and honouring the holy people in its midst. Yesterday, for instance, the Church of England reflected upon the life of the great twentieth-century Archbishop of both York and Canterbury, William Temple. By the way, John Paul during his time as pope gave various reasons for his decision to canonize so many saints in his Church. For one thing, he said, with the worldwide growth of population there are also more Christians than ever before; so, it is only natural that a certain proportion of them should be recognized for their saintliness in all parts of the world. But then, he also argued, holiness and the making of saints is what the Church is all about. If the Church is not creating saints, it is simply not doing its job. In some sense, that is what we celebrate today on this festival day of All Saints, or more specifically, the Sunday after All Saints Day. We are celebrating the Church doing its job, cranking out ever more saints. We are celebrating in other words holiness, for we are all in a sense in the process of canonization, in the saintly supply-chain. And as pipeline saints, we celebrate Christ at work in our lives and in the life of his Church each day we live out our Baptismal commitment, whether we are Roman Catholic, Anglican, or any other brand of Christian.
Lazarus, who appears prominently in our account this morning from the Gospel of John -- though without a speaking part -- must surely be counted as one of the very first saints and is the only one I know of who actually died and then came back to life again at Jesus’ command, prefiguring the death and Resurrection of our Lord himself; prefiguring as well our own risen life in Christ. What profound insight Lazarus must have had into the meaning of the Gospel all the rest of his days. Too bad he never wrote his memoirs. According to legend, he spent the remaining portion of his now-resurrected life spreading the Good News of the Gospel to the people of Cypress and France. Today, he even has a train station named after him in Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare, if I am pronouncing it correctly. All of which is fine for Lazarus and even for Pope John Paul who has himself been raised to the rank of canonized saint by his successor, Pope Francis. But personally, I do not think we sufficiently honour ordinary everyday saints. There are relatively few married saints in the Canon of Saints, for instance, even though they make up the vast majority of the faithful; probably because celibate monks and popes for centuries got to decide who the official saints are. There are not many women saints either for that matter and for pretty much the same reason. I think this is a pity and a great injustice. Our own Saint Margaret of Scotland by the way is a happy exception to the rule on both counts. There are not too many children who have been declared saints, although for their innocence and simplicity little children may be the closest we come to having saints living in our midst on a regular basis, as hard as it may be to believe when one of them is throwing a tantrum or refuses to eat her vegetables. There are not too many teenage saints either, even though getting through adolescence in one piece surely deserves a medal if not exactly a certificate of sainthood. Saints are at heart people of flesh and blood like everyone else, like you and me. Is it easy to become a saint? Good question. Achieving sainthood is probably as easy and as difficult as allowing God in Christ to live in us and through us. For, sainthood is actually not anything we do or ever achieve. Sainthood is what Christ does. It is what the Church is all about. The Church is after all a saint factory. And for Christians of all stripes, the process of becoming a saint begins at Baptism. For, that is where each of us first truly becomes holy, where each of us like Lazarus is unbound from sin, given new life, and let go; set free to serve. But what begins in us at Baptism does not end there. Rather, to live out our Baptism every day of our lives is to become a saint. When we visit the children and families at the Menedékház, or donate of our treasure to their cause, we are doing what saints do. When we comfort the sick and pray for them during these troubling times, we are Christ at work in our world; we are saints. When we go out of our way to help a friend, or a stranger, we are living in holiness. In all these things and so many others, we are the Church. We are Christ at work in the world.
We are canonized. Amen. The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs