Perhaps you noticed something different at Mass today.
Did you notice something placed
at the foot of the altar?
These are relics of various saints!
A “relic” is part of the saint’s body—
such as a piece of a bone.
You might wonder,
why do we have something like that?
You have to go way back in time—
like the cartoon on TV!—
to the beginning of the Church:
to the first 100 years after Jesus rose from the dead.
Right after Jesus came back from the dead,
people began facing persecution for following the Lord,
and it wasn’t long before the government
started killing people for believing Jesus is Lord.
They killed St. James the Apostle within a few years.
St. Peter and St. Paul were both executed, in Rome.
And there were many others who died,
rather than deny that they saw and knew Jesus,
rather than deny he is the Son of God,
the Savior of the world.
When those people died for the Lord,
those who remained were very careful
to gather their bodies and honor them.
And because Christians had to hide,
one of the places they would hide was underground.
The Romans would bury their dead
in caves underground—
and that’s where the first Christians would gather.
The priests and people would gather underground,
and there, they would celebrate Mass together.
They would celebrate Mass
at the graves of those first saints who died for the Lord.
So you can see why it would be important
to remember those martyrs, and to honor their bodies.
And up here, we have a little part
of the bodies of the following saints:
St. Peter, St. Andrew, both Apostles named James;
Sts. John and Thomas; Sts. Philip and Bartholomew,
Matthew, Simon and Jude; St. Matthias, St. Clement,
St. Boniface, our patron,
St. George (who has a window over there),
St. Augustine, St. Pius X, St. Vincent Ferrer,
St. Theresa Avila, St. Alphonsus,
St. Sylvia, St. Angelo, St. Ignatius Loyola,
St. John Vianney, St. Margaret Mary, St. Maria del Pazzi,
and St. Francis Cabrini—an American saint.
There’s another reason
we honor the bodies of saints—
because we honor the bodies of everyone
who follows the Lord.
When someone dies, we have a funeral—
and we honor the body because God created it,
and God has promised to raise our bodies again,
at the end of time.
Did you see how I used incense
at the beginning of Mass,
to honor the memory of all the saints?
At a funeral, we use incense
very much the same way.
You see, when you and I honor
and remember the saints,
we are honoring what God is doing—
not only in their lives,
but what he is doing in our lives as well!
Because as many saints as there are—
and no one knows how many—
there are to be a lot more, before it’s all over.
Do you know who is supposed to join them?
You and I are!
God has called each of us to be a saint:
every one of us!
In the first reading, you heard a number: 144,000.
But then, you heard it say:
“a great multitude which no one could count.”
A lot of Christians died in the early years,
But do you realize, in 2,000 years,
there has never been a time when Christians
have not faced persecution and death?
Right now, in China, in North Korea, in Saudi Arabia,
in Cuba, people are persecuted, sometimes killed,
for following Jesus.
You and I aren’t facing that.
But we are still asked to be faithful.
And there may be times we wonder,
"Why does it matter?"
The bits of bone up here remind us
that our lives do come to an and.
The question is, what will our lives be for?
When our life has ended, where will we be?
That may seem faraway when you’re young;
But as you get older,
the psalm we prayed means a lot more:
Lord, we are the people who long to see your face!
Every saint who lived and died,
longed to see his face;
those first Christians did see his face—
and they remained faithful
so they would see him again.
When you walk with the Lord, day-by-day,
you too come to long to see his face.
When you know his forgiveness;
When he guides you with his Holy Spirit,
You long to see his face, in heaven, forever.
Many live their lives without thinking much about God.
I don’t know what will become of them.
But you and I know what we hope for:
We have hope in Jesus Christ, who died and rose;
and to those who follow him, he said:
“Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”