Saturday, October 30, 2021

Lessons of All Hallows Eve


 Love of God and do as you please


The following is based on the readings for the Thirty first Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B, as reproduced in the Lectionary number 152. Deuteronmy 6:2-6; Psalm: 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28b-34

Did you know tomorrow night (tonight) the gateway between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. And, yes, we celebrate this as Halloween.

But our contemporary Halloween has lost the original meaning of this day. All Hallows Eve as it was one known originated with the religious practices  of the Celtic people who set aside one day a year, which they called  Samhain (Sah-win) day to honour their ancestors. Rather then explaining their belief here is one of their traditional prayers they would pray on the eve of Samhain day.  

“Spirits of my fathers and mothers, I call to you, and welcome you to join me for this night. You watch over me always, protecting and guiding me, and tonight I thank you. Your blood runs in my veins, your spirit is in my heart, your memories are in my soul. With the gift of remembrance. I remember all of you. You are dead but never forgotten, and you live on within me, and within those who are yet to come.”

It is a prayer that could have been written by a Christian for All Souls Day. Perhaps that is why the fifth century missionaries sent by Pope Gregory the Great, to evangelize England, Scotland and Ireland found it so easy to adapt the  religious customs of these non-Christian people into Christian practices.

It is a shame that the supernatural symbolism and rituals of Samhain Day, which were adapted to fit with our faith in All Saints and All Souls, slowly morphed into Halloween, becoming spooky fun rather than commemorating all saints.

At first glance you might wonder what Halloween has to do with the scripture readings for this Sunday. That is until you consider how the words of Jesus about love of God and neighbour are the guiding principles for the saints we commemorate on All Saints Day, November 1.

Regardless of the saint you choose to read about, they are all motivated by the love of God, which is expressed through one’s love of neighbour. They believed as Jesus informed the scribe, love of God and neighbour comes before the laws requiring burnt offerings and sacrifices. In other words, Saints know the admission price into heaven is not following the law, but rather loving God which moves us to love our neighbour.

Let me explain. God gave the people of Israel the Ten Commandments so they would know how to live their life in relation to God and their neighbour. Sadly over the centuries the  Jewish religious leadership gradually created over 600 laws intended as a guide to interpret the Ten Commandments. By the time of Jesus, the interpretation of the Ten Commandments had become so complicated they needed lawyers to decipher them.

So when the scribe asked Jesus what commandment is the first  of all, Jesus simply took the Ten Commandments and broke them into their natural divisions.  Love of God and Love of neighbour. Love of God is expressed in the first three commandments: worship only God, never take God’s name in vain and keep holy the Sabbath. The love of neighbour is expressed in the seven commandments that follow, such as, honour our parents, do not kill, or commit adultery or covet your neighbours goods. 

By Jesus highlighting the internal division of the Ten Commandments he is illustrating our first and primary duty is to love God. If you get this right, you will get the next seven correct.

As Saint Augustine explained: If you love God, you can do what you please, because when the soul is trained in love to God, you will do nothing to offend God.

The moral of this gospel story then, if our love is about following a law to win a place in heaven, then it is no different then the wealthy man                                                  

who was very proud of his possessions and took good care of them, never sharing, always hoarding . One day while driving his BMW M5 G-Power Hurricane, worth $750,000, and another car collided with his proud possession. The wealthy man jumped out and started to scream at the other driver, who could only look with concern for him. Finally when the man started complaining about how his beautiful car had been damaged the other driver said: But you are missing your left arm. The rich man said, “oh no I lost my Rolex.”

Without the love of God animating your relationship with one another, we are no different than the rich man now missing an arm. Perhaps a great Halloween costume, but not a ticket into the kingdom. Like the Celts, on “All Hallow’s Eve” we honour our ancestors in faith, the saints, who have gone before us; we ask them to protect and guide us;  and we give thanks to all the saints and souls for showing us how to live the gospel life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments

Resentment to Gratitude

  Resentment to Gratitude  Perhaps the most significant conversion one can undergo is the movement from resentment to gratitude. Let me expl...

Popular Posts