All Saints

Rev'd Heather
Sunday, November 3, 2019 - 9:30am

There are so many great saints! Women and men who through their lives have revealed the light and grace of God in powerful ways. Those of you who come to the Wednesday midweek Eucharist will know that one of my favourite Saints – and I should admit that I have a LOT of favourite saints – is Saint Ignatius of Loyola. And I’d like to share a little of his story with you this morning as it helps to shed some light on our Gospel reading from Luke.

St Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. He described himself as “a man given to the vanities of the world, whose chief delight consisted in martial exercises, with a great and vain desire to win renown” He served first as a page at the court of the King, and then as a solider, but was seriously injured in the French siege of Pamplona in 1521. During his lengthy convalescence (his leg never fully healed) he read the life of Christ and the biographies of various saints, since the "romances of chivalry" he loved to read were not available to him in the castle! These books had a profound impact on him. He noticed the feelings of consolation – of comfort and joy – that he had as he read these books and decided to devote himself to a life of prayer. He went on pilgrimages, spent time working in a hospital, and inspired by St Thomas a Kempis wrote a manual of Christian prayer and meditation known today as the Spiritual Exercises. He continued his studies in Paris and along with 6 other students began to explore a monastic life together, today known as the Jesuits, which by the time of his death in 1556 had grown a hundredfold.

When we think of Ignatius’ story alongside our Gospel reading, a Gospel reading that talks of blessings and corresponding woes, we find the story of a young man who was rich, well fed, and laughing, who did not have need or time for God. He leans on his security, found in his wealth, his power, his health. He is akin to the ‘rich’ that Luke refers to so often in his Gospel – those who through their self sufficiency see no need to let God in to their lives. Woe to the rich – for in their reliance upon their own resources they are missing out on welcoming God’s light and grace into their lives.

Yet wounded in battle, Ignatius’ broken legs led to a breaking open of his life through which he came to know God more deeply, and find far deeper meaning in his life than he could ever have imagined possible. In coming to know Christ through reading about both the life of Christ and the Saints, he welcomed the light and grace of God into his life. And dependent upon God, he found himself richly blessed, so much so that he devoted himself to the spiritual life, entering deeper into relationship with God.

We’re all broken in our own ways. We all experience hurt, pain, loss, loneliness. As the words of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem remind us: Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
It can be tempting sometimes to try to plaster over the cracks, to use the things of this world to try to hide our brokenness. We might turn to consumerism or drink to try to cover the cracks. But our Gospel reading today reminds us that we are blessed when we recognise our need of God and allow God’s light and grace to meet our poverty and transform us. For it is when we acknowledge our need for God that we will see just how great God’s strength is.

The most beautiful image I have ever come across for light transforming brokenness was when Dominic and I were in Bethlehem 4 years ago. We visited the Al Kahf Arts and Crafts Center where we came across these beautiful angels. Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, in the midst of their struggles are use art to convey the light, grace and hope that Jesus offers them and us in our brokenness. ‘These art pieces are made out of glass, fragments of broken bottles thrown away or glass destroyed during the Israeli invasion of Bethlehem. Human hands pick them from among the rubble then assemble them together by some of the poorest of the poor in the Bethlehem region at the Arts and Crafts Center... The broken glass pieces are a sign of the brokenness of our world, and it is also the reason for God to live amongst us on earth... bringing... the divine and the human back together. God picked what seems to be worthless and hopeless and transformed it into a beautiful and whole creation. It is this incarnation, which took place here in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, which gives us the strength to continue to look for broken lives and hopes and to transform them through art into angels and different art pieces, messengers of justice, peace and dignity.’ These Palestinian Christians are saints of today, people who through their work and their life allow God’s light and grace to shine in one of the most broken parts of our world.

These wartime experiences, of St Ignatius and the people of Palestine today, remind us that in the most broken situations and places Gods light and grace can shine through. But even the smallest of cracks allow the light to get in. We may not be living through wartime, but we will each have our ways in which we have been broken by life, and through which God longs to bless us with grace and light. When we let this light and Grace into our lives we may find ourselves joining with the many everyday saints of today and years gone by who have learned to depend upon God and known God’s blessings in their lives as they allow God’s light and grace to shine through them.