Halloween allows us to remember that life, even in these years of human longevity, is actually very short. It reminds us that what we do matters and how we spend our days and years makes a difference. There is subtle beauty in its invitation to stand on that brink between life and death and nestle closer to what is valued, what is most real. In so many ways, Halloween is the reminder that living with costumes and masks is a playful deflection from what is real and what really matters in life: daring to embrace what really is and who we really are and ride through the roller coaster of life. Just a few guidelines on that trip can really help. Today’s Gospel bores down to the heart of all that: Love God; love your neighbor as yourself.
That looks different for everyone, but we are truthfully surrounded by individuals who dare to live that way everyday. They find those quiet moments when the Lord’s Prayer can flow into the silence; they live with a sense of gratitude for the kindness of strangers, and gently astound the next person by paying it forward at a coffee shop. They understand that a forest is as sacred as a church and that the ocean carries an abiding message to the human who dares to walk along its shore. They know the heartbeat of God in the tears of the vulnerable, and they can detect the truth of a situation with an uncany consistency. They keep a sense of self while not being over-bearing to others; they have the courage to walk away when it is necessary and to reach out when it is needed. They trust that they are lovable human beings created to love and to be loved; they are conscious of the need to sacrifice, and they live with the desire to make a difference. They value truth and treasure honesty in themselves and others, and they are remarkably humble and unfailingly modest. Most of all, they have the capacity, the competence and the courage to deal with with what happens, whatever that is and however challenging it might be, they are willing to work it through.
You know who they are: they are the gifts given to guide us through this very complicated experience of life, the angels we can see. They are the ones who keep trying, who don’t give up, who believe that truth is worth living out. They recognize possibilities, nurture hope, and they can see reality with an acuity denied to others. Theirs is the task of articulating it, choosing wisely, and knowing that genuine goodness is what makes all the rest happen. Preserving and growing that goodness is costly to them, but worth the sacrifice. They edify and inspire the rest of us, and they enable us to believe in the sacredness of life. They live out the Gospel in ways we can learn from. They are there, no costumes and no feigning, one hundred percent real and dealing with reality everyday with gentleness, kindness and goodness. Look closely: look at the persons you cross paths with everyday. That can be goodness looking you right in the eye. Deal with it!