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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories: A Faith Journey with Saints and Souls

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints. These words and what they express are part of the Apostles Creed a gift to us from our earliest ancestors in the Faith. It comes down to the 21st Century from the Christian community of the 1st and 2nd Centuries. Among the things that are central to our faith and that we find in this creed is the testimony of our faith in the communion of saints. Creeds like the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed are more intellectual expressions of belief. They are descriptors of who we are and who we are to become.

What is this communion of saints and what does it mean for us today? The early Christians had a deep sense that their relationship with God and with Jesus was something that drew them into a community of faith. To be a disciple of Jesus was to live and work and pray with other disciples. In fact so strong was the bond that drew these believers together that it did not end with death. Their sense of being a community of believers included those who had died and gone before them. In addition, it included those who had not yet been born, but would be future disciples.

It is not unlike what we experience in our families. We fondly remember our grandparents, our uncles and aunts and all those of our family who have gone before us. We have an interest, a curiosity about our roots and the origins of our family. We tell many stories of these roots. At the same time, we are excited and rejoice when a new person enters our family, whether by a birth or a marriage. The basis of our family relationships is a bond of love that draws us together and allows us to identify with one another.

The communion of saints shares a similar bond. It is a community tied together by a shared experience of God who loves us into life, who sustains us in life and who ultimate draws us to an everlasting life of love with God’s own self. We do not know how this all takes place, but we trust in faith that the love of God never dies, never ends and never leaves us.

Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus in a debate with some of the authorities in the Temple (Mark 12:28-34). One of them, a scribe asks Jesus a fundamental question: “Which commandment is the first of all?” This is a basic question for all of us. How do we do what is right and good? How do we live in relationship with God who made and sustains us in life? In response, Jesus tells the scribe that at its heart, our relationship with God is one of love. Our response to God’s love is to love God in return and to do so in how we love one another. This is the bond and the meaning of the communion of saints.

In our tradition, we celebrate two particular feasts - All Saints and All Souls (Nov.1 & 2). These are celebrations of who we are. Our community of believers, past, present and to come is the communion of saints reaching back to the distant generations of God’s beloved people. It regards all of the present beloved people of God and it anticipates all who are yet to come into this community of faith. What we express as our faith in the communion of saints is our belief that God’s love knows no limits. There are no limits even in time. Past, present and future are all within the circle of God’s love.

These two feast days celebrate the communion of saints. Is it any wonder that the day before these two feasts is Halloween (Holy Evening)? Both of these days point to the importance of the communion of saints for our faith. They help us to understand that our faith is not just about a relationship of God and me. It is God’s loving relationship with all humanity, past, present and to come.

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