What horrible news came to us this week from France, with the unspeakably evil desecration of the lives of innocent people of faith within the Church of Notre Dame in Nice. There is certainly something quite diabolical about the taking of innocent lives in the most violent and arbitrary of ways within a sacred place of honour to the one God who is Creator and Father of us all. Satan entered into the Lord’s Temple on Wednesday, and displayed his hatred of God’s saints for all the world to see.
Indeed, those three victims were and are saints, God’s children. Saints are not only those who have already died in this mortal life having lived a heroic life; a saint is first and foremost a sinner – any sinner – who has been found by God, and become a friend of the Lord’s. Saints are the blessed, those who seek to live their lives according to the characteristics of God: they are poor in spirit, gentle and merciful. Saints mourn the loss of love and their beloved, and know to seek out paths of peace and justice.
The blessed of God may feel the sting of persecution and hatred, yet all the while live with joy and gladness. Saints go to light a candle for some soul, or work to keep clean the surroundings, or let their children know they love them with their last breath. The three who died in Notre Dame were indeed saints among the saints of God, before their lives were martyred.
This is what St John said to his beloved friends, and which we can hear as words also spoken to us: My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him. Already we are God’s children, already earthly saints. And we long to see how we are to look as heavenly saints, when we come to look on the face of the Lord.
The man who took the lives of those three Christians in Nice had forgotten what He looks like. He had handed his life over to the antithesis of love, and denied to see in their faces the image of the God who made them all, including himself. In this most horrendous of actions three saints have been revealed to us, not because we knew them by their lives, but because God knows them as his own children; his saints among the saints, caught up in a whirlwind of evil.
Friends and fellow saints in Christ, the Father of us all is lavishing his love upon us. We are sinners indeed, but we have been found by God. Do not let that slip from your view; do not allow the light of God’s face to dim from yours. And if you do, as sadly we all do, know that God’s love is always forgiving. Do not forget who you look like, and let us live by that light; saints among the saints of God.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli27 January 2021