Homily: Leave It Better Than You Found It

November 1, 2019 – Solemnity of All Saints

The following is the homily I delivered at a Bishop Chatard school Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints in 2016:

We heard this read from the Book of Revelation moments ago: After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 2:9)

That’s what we think of when we think of saints, isn’t it? Holy people with wings and halos, wearing white robes and holding palm branches. Perfect people now experiencing the perfection of heaven. We cannot imagine ourselves in one of those white robes. We could never be saints.

I would guess that most saints felt that way about themselves as they were growing up. As a matter of fact, many eventual saints lived quite un-saintly lives right up until their conversion – the conversion of their hearts that occurred when they recognized God’s presence in their lives.

It’s never too late for conversion.

St. Paul’s conversion came when he was knocked off his horse and temporarily blinded. Certainly God made His presence known to Paul. However, most conversion is more subtle and happens over time.

When I was young, our family would occasionally stay at a hotel as we were traveling on vacation. Before we checked out, my Mom always made us clean up the room. We made the beds, wiped down the shower and sink, dusted everything off, etc. We (the kids) all moaned and groaned, “Why are we doing this? This is what the maids are for!”

My mom gave the same answer each time, “We should always leave things better than we found them.”

That is what living a holy life is about. That’s the type of life that leads to sainthood – making every effort to leave the world better than we found it.

Jesus used the teaching of the beatitudes to describe such a life. In today’s Gospel from Matthew we heard the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, etc. Jesus was telling all who would listen – this is the way to live your life.

The Ten Commandments are the rules; they spell out what not to do. The Beatitudes, on the other hand, tell us what to do. They offer us practical application.

The beatitudes call us to do what’s right with intention. That means we set out to do the right thing. We plan to do right thing and pray for the courage to do the right thing.

When we do this continually over time, we will gradually experience a conversion of heart. Doing the right thing becomes second nature. It becomes who we are, not what we do.

It leads to a holy life. It leads to a saintly life.

When we see someone who is hungry, we feed him. When we see someone who is lonely, we give her the gift of our time. When we see someone who is sad, we console him. When someone has hurt us, we offer forgiveness

You think you could never be a saint? Start by leaving things better than you found them.

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