As I examined the opened bag of candy, I found that the my husband has been trick-or-treating early. Apparently, he favors M&Ms because there were only a few packages left at the bottom of the mini assortment bag. As I contemplated where to hide what was left of our Halloween cache, I realized that I had not yet settled on a topic for this writing. I have read the scriptures several times over the past few days, hoping for inspiration. After I secured what remained of our Halloween candy in what I hope is a husband-proof hiding place, I returned to my computer. As I began to write, I admitted that my husband’s candy assault reminded me of how much I enjoy our annual “Halloween Trilogy.”
When I was in elementary school, the sisters made it clear that there was no Halloween without All Saints Day. Halloween evolved from “The Eve of All Hallows”. In centuries past, on the Eve of All Saints Day, adults in some European countries paraded in costumes. They depicted various stages of life and position on this earth as a reminder that no one is exempt from death. Today, children dress up with the hope of gathering as much candy as possible without a giving a thought to their mortality.
The second day of my Halloween Trilogy is November 1, All Saints Day. On this day, we honor all who enjoy God’s company in eternity, but who have not been formally declared saints by the church. When we celebrate All Saints Day, we celebrate our hope that, even at our worst, the potential for sainthood remains within us all. Now that is something to contemplate as we dole out candy to the princesses, super heroes, hobos and vampires who knock at our doors this weekend!
The final day of my Halloween Trilogy is November 2, All Souls’ Day, The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. On this day, we remember all of our loved ones who have passed away. The truth is that none of us can be certain of how God handles our imperfections when we take them along with us from this life to the next. The hope we hold as a faith community compels us to pray for those who have passed away. We ask that their journeys to God’s embrace are mercifully swift. We also celebrate the knowledge that the potential for sainthood remains within them as it does within us all.
As I turn my thoughts turn from my Halloween Trilogy to Luke’s gospel (Luke 18:9-14), I consider the Pharisee and tax collector who went to the temple to pray. It occurs to me that the reason for both men’s prayer was hope. Though they displayed their hope with very different attitudes and words, each man came to the temple with hope in God’s promises.
The Pharisee was a devout man who followed the letter of the law to the nth degree. He offered his prayer at the front of the temple. With his eyes turned upward to heaven, he prayed, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” The Pharisee listed his virtues and good works, contrasting his situation and that of the lowly tax collector who bowed down at the back of the temple. The tax collector knelt on the floor with his head bent low to the floor. He dared not raise his eyes as he prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” After giving those present a moment to consider the scene, Jesus assured them that the tax collector’s hope was fulfilled by the Lord. This poor man asked for forgiveness and he received it. The Pharisee, on the other hand, asked for nothing and he received nothing in return. Both men prayed with hope, one daring to hope for God’s mercy and one quite hopeful that he was already “good enough.”
Hope is the driving force behind many things this weekend. Trick-or-treaters long for hope-fulfilled as we drop treats into their bags. As for me, between doorbell rings, I will consider the hopeful lives of sinners-turned-saints like Augustine and Paul, and I will pray with hope for my dearly departed. I will pray for myself as well, hoping that both the Pharisee and the tax collector within me will walk among all souls and all saints one day.
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