(I will recount my homily as best I can from memory, I had no notes.)
As it happens, we might call today "Health Sunday"--because I have a couple of items to share with you concerning our health--and this seems the best way to do it.
First. Given the flu season, there are many with concerns, and after talking to Father Tom and Father Ang, we wanted to offer the following precautions:
1) Since shaking hands is a very effective way to spread germs, please don't feel you have to shake hands at the sign of peace. This is a symbolic sign of the peace Christ gives us. If you are a little under the weather, or you aren't so sure about the nice person next to you, you don't have to shake hands--maybe a head-nod or a wave instead.
2) If you are feeling a little under the weather, and you don't come to Mass because you don't want to spread it, that's not a sin, that's being very considerate. If you know of anyone who isn't coming to Mass and would like to receive holy communion, call the parish office so we can do that.
3) If you came to Mass and you feel a little under the weather, you don't have to drink from the cup. We receive all of Jesus in the Eucharist, whether we receive the host or the cup. Not drinking from the cup when you're a little germ-y or cough-y is very considerate of others. If there is anyone for whom this creates a problem, please let me know after Mass.
4) We are so grateful for those who help distribute the Eucharist at Mass--and I would just suggest that they may want to get some hand-sanitizer and use it just before they come forward.
Second health item. This is something Archbishop Pilarczyk wants me to bring to your attention. We are all aware of Congress debating health-care legislation that will affect all of us. And for some time, the bishops have been raising the concern that whatever legislation is passed, it not include funding to promote or pay for abortions, among other concerns.
Unfortunately, thus far Congress has not heeded that concern--so the bills now under consideration would use our tax money to promote abortion. In your bulletins today is this orange handout (hold up handout)--it has other information on the back, so look at both sides--and it provides all the information you need. Also, it provides a way you and I can contact Congress right away to voice our views. As Catholics and as citizens, we have the right--and the duty--to speak up; and things are moving fast, so don't wait, we need to act now.
Now, what does all that about health have to do with the saints? I thought about that; and I realized: the saints are the health of the world. Everyone in this world who has the Holy Spirit active in his or her life, following the grace of Christ--that means all of us, but the saints especially, who do so in heroic ways--this is essential for the health of the world. Consider for a moment: what if, at midnight, everyone who followed the Lord ceased to be in the world? What would happen? What would the world be like? No one to be a peacemaker; no one to offer reconciliation in response to anger; no one to lead others in a life of discipline and holiness.
I don't want to think about that world, and thankfully, we won't find out--because the world is filled with Christians, and the grace of Christ is at work through us all--and the world needs us!
Who can forget when Mother Theresa won the Nobel Prize, and stood before the world, and said it was a terrible poverty to destroy children in abortion? What a difference St. Damien of Molokai, John Paul, Maximilian Kolbe, and so many others, have made in the world!
Now, there's another thing. How many saints are present, right here? I don't mean the saints who are present with us spiritually at Mass--I mean you! I know what you're thinking, "I'm not a saint!" But when you were baptized, you became a saint. As I tell the parents and godparents, that's the easy part; the hard part is staying a saint. That's why their task is so important.
But how blessed we are that God doesn't just give us one shot--and if we mess up after baptism, too bad, hope you have an asbestos suit for the afterlife! No! God gives us every possible help to persevere. We are made saints in baptism, and if we mess up, we can renew the newness of baptism in the sacrament of confession.
What if I told you that, if you stepped into the box back there, when you came out, all debts would be gone? I suspect some of us wouldn't wait for Mass to end--you'd be back there! Wouldn't that be wonderful? That's what happens in confession--the debt of sin, wiped away! How wonderful!
Above all, the Lord gives us the Eucharist--where we are united to the One who will take us to heaven. Through the Eucharist, we are joined to him--and as long as we hold onto him, we have nothing to fear, because he is taking us to heaven.
We are called to be saints. If we make it to heaven, that's what we'll be; there's no economy class in heaven! We will all be saints.
Think of those who run marathons. I don't run marathons, in case you haven't figured that out! But I've seen it done! What happens? The men and women who are running, maybe after 10, or 15 or so miles, they get tired, they flag, they are running down. And what do those who have finished the race do? They are standing there, saying, "come on! you can do it! you can make it! keep coming, keep running, don't give up, go, go go!"
That's what the saints are doing for us. They are cheering us on from heaven, supporting us with their prayers--they want us to make it! So that what the first reading from Revelation described is fulfilled: a number, too great to count, of all those who have been washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb, and who have overcome, are gathered together.
That's us! That's our hope.