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Trick or Treat

Walking through a department store this time of year it’s difficult not to have one’s mind taken back to the childhood experience of Halloween night. Children have different reactions to the experience of dressing in costume and going door-to-door soliciting candy. For some it’ s an exciting adventure, the culmination of planning just what to wear, what stations pay calls on and the promise of free candy. Other children dread getting dressed in strange clothes and being forced to beg for the sugary offerings of family and neighbors. Of course the whole panoply of Halloween traditions – jack-o’-lanterns, costumes, ghosts, and the like – all relate somehow to All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day. But how do the trick-or-treat things fit in?

Rarely does the child actually plan to play a “trick” on a house that doesn’t oblige with candy. The greeting is just as rote and commonplace as asking “how are you” when you see a mate. In the end there is an unwritten and unspoken contract on Halloween night: home dwellers want to be nice to children just because they’re children and children want to be rewarded when each door is opened.

Isn’t this what each of us wants when we knock one day on Heaven’s door? Don’t we want God to love us just because we are His children? Aren’t we confident that He has something sweet and special in store for those who approach Him with confidence? Like children we often think we have to approach God in costume. We think that if we look different- “holier” – then He can’t help but love us and reward us. Most adults can see behind the mask and recognize the child lurking within the costume. The response of candy isn’t to the costume, but to the character of the child. God sees behind our masks and loves us for who we are, not who we pretend to be. Just as the child wants to do a good job as a fireman, Spiderman, a princess or a ghost, most of us are sincere in our attempts to be the best of Christians. Saint Paul admonishes us to “put on Christ.” The vestments of holiness are all we need to knock at the Father’s door.

Really there’s no “trick” involved in the Halloween exercise. Everyone understands how this works. Child shows up ~ child rings doorbell ~ child gets candy. It’s simple and leads to great happiness for everyone involved. There’s no “trick” to getting into Heaven. God’s child shows up ~ live the Christian life ~ go to Heaven.

Many young children like to see the older kids go first. Little ones gain assurance watching their older siblings confidently execute the Halloween ritual. We little ones in the faith look to the saints as the ones who have gone before us and succeeded in getting the reward of Heaven. They have knocked and been admitted; they have clothed themselves in holiness in reality not in a costume of fantasy. Charlie Brown got rocks on Halloween night; some children are disappointed with candy they don’t like. The Holy Souls in purgatory we remember on All Souls Day are still waiting for us to pray for them so that their bags might be filled with the sweetness of Heaven.

Celebrate the Saints and pray for the Holy Souls in these special days. No tricks, just treats for those who place themselves at the door of eternal life.