2 Nov 2014
“You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers.” (1 Thess. 2:10)
In the name …
When I was asked to preach a couple of weeks ago at the 100th anniversary celebration of two parishes down in Connecticut, I told them the story of my trip out to Duquesne University for one of our Youth Convocations with their pastor, Fr. Sen. Joseph Krusienski. Fr. Sen. Joe hails from the Pittsburgh area, the home of Duquesne. I and some of our kids drove from here to Plantsville, CT where we met up with Fr. Sen. and some of his kids. This was all on a Sunday. We left South Deerfield after church and Sunday School because the Convo started on a Monday. So we got down to Plantsville somewhere around mid-afternoon. We got in their van and started the rest of our journey. We drove down Route 84 to Scranton and there picked-up the Pennsylvania Turnpike and began heading west. This was becoming a rather long day. The trip from here to Scranton is about four hours – now remember that’s four hours with teenagers. I was sitting in the front passenger seat of the van and Fr. Sen. Joe was driving. Since he was born in Pittsburgh and traveled to see family all the time, I never bothered to check for directions.
When we finally got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike heading west, it felt like this should be the last stage of the trip. I had never driven very far west out of Scranton before. I never realized how much of PA was west of Scranton or many trees were out there. It was mile after mile of no scenery except for woods and then more woods. Finally after 100 miles of woods we got off the Turnpike. I asked Fr. Sen. how much longer it would be. “Not long,” he said. I thought the Turnpike went directly from Scranton to Pittsburgh so I believed him. It was now getting to be dark outside. Couldn’t even see the woods and more woods. After about another hour we got off this second highway and I asked Fr. Sen., “How much longer?” Again, “Not long.” And we drove. It was getting late and I was getting tired. The third highway ended after some 75 miles. I was begging Fr. Sen., “How much longer?” He laughed and said, “Not long.” Now I don’t believe him, which made every mile seem like forever. Finally we passed through this tunnel and down below us were the three rivers of Pittsburgh and all the beautiful city lights. It was about midnight and the city’s lights seemed like a revelation.
Yesterday was All Saints Day and today is All Souls Day. Yesterday’s focus was on the glorious promise of eternal life. Today we share requiem prayers for our dearly departed. Even though we believe that they are in heaven, they are still not beside us, and for that we grieve. But these two feast days remind us that life, even our lives, are not defined by the scope our physical bodies. I’m 54, which may be called middle-aged, but tomorrow I have the funeral for a woman who was 57. We don’t know how long we have on this earth so middle-aged works out on an average, but not in every person’s situation. Mrs. Gnatek from this parish, who I visited on Friday, may hit her 100th birthday this Spring. Say she retired at 65 after working a lifetime. That was nearly 35 years ago. We just never know how far along the road of this life we are. It’s like me on the trip to Pittsburgh never knowing exactly where I was or how much farther I had to travel. That imitates the confusion of our physical lives, but All Saints and All Souls remind us that there is so much more, that there is a promised destination at the end of this journey.
When we finally drove through the tunnel probably close to midnight and saw the city lights below us, my drowsiness disappeared and I was wide awake again. Church, Sunday School, the trip from here to Connecticut, from Connecticut to Scranton and then that long drive west to Pittsburgh all became part of the past. The city was beautiful below us and that moment in the present stole all of my attention. We don’t know how far along life’s road we are. We don’t know how much farther we will be able to travel. But we can believe that there is the city at the end of our journey, and that city has the power to transform everything we traveled through to get there. We can believe that no matter whether this life be short or long that there is so much more of it ahead of us that we can’t even imagine what it will be like while in these bodies of ours. All Saints and All Souls remind us to think every once in a while about God’s picture of our lives, about seeing life through the prism of eternity and heaven. That belief puts physical life in a whole other perspective. This is not all that there is nor all that matters. However far along the road of this life we are, the city still awaits as our destination, and that city is the reason for the trip in the first place.
I don’t preach about these things too often because I know nothing about them. They’re mysteries that God will reveal in His own due time. Jesus came back from the grave and told us nothing about the other side. He pointed His followers away from all that kind of speculation. Our job is to work in this world, to make a difference here. But sometimes to do the hard work here in an often times mean world we have to remember and be renewed by the promise that there is so much more to life than what we can perceive with our senses, and that there is more and better to come.
Today’s Lesson is from the oldest piece of Christian literature we have in the world. Since the first days of our Christian faith, we have believed that what we do here is witnessed not only by our neighbours, but, as Paul says, by “God also.” Remember that we hope to some day live in God’s heavenly city, but remember also that God lives now in our earthly cities. He is the witness to how we act on Sunday morning and on Tuesday evening. We don’t know where we are on the road of life, but let us live every day as people destined for the city of God at the end of that road. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo