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Nov 11, 2014 Written by 

The Solemnity of All Saints 2014

Theme: Our Final destiny is where we long to see God’s face.

The feast of All Saints, on   1st of November, provides an annual reminder that there are many more saints in heaven than the relatively few who have been officially recognized by the Church. For every St. Francis of Assisi or Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta there are thousands of unknown and long forgotten mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, co-workers, nurses, teachers, manual laborers, and other individuals in various kinds of occupations who lived holy lives that were consistent with the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the feast of countless men and women who remained faithful to God. The Communion of Saints is the union that exists between all the members of the Church on earth, in heaven, and in purgatory. Those members on earth comprise the Church Militant, those in heaven the Church Triumphant, those in purgatory the Church Suffering.

Who is a Saint? Firstly, we should understand that Saints are not born, they are made. We are all born potentially to become Saints. The only difference between ourselves who are not Saints and the Saints is that they are people who are continually picking themselves up after sinning, continually repenting until they attain holiness, whereas we give up. We should also say that there are two sorts of Saints – Confessors (Witnesses) and Martyrs. Martyrs can be religious or laity who led ordinary lives but then, when it came to the ultimate sacrifice, they found Faith in themselves, sufficient for them to prefer to confess Christ rather than denial and so sacrificed everything for Christ. We recognize their sacrifice and honour it. Confessor or Witness instead people who live exemplary lives.

Even when we ask people who live near the person whom we believe to be a witness they testify straight away. All the same holiness is more than righteousness. Holiness is that downright devotion to God; the confession of Christ before men and women and the taking up of one’s cross and following, to which Christ will bear witness before His Father in Heaven. It is this devotion of which Jesus speaks in today’s beatitudes, which is above devotion to husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter.

We have already said that the purpose of the Church is to make Saints thus the characteristics of the Saints are also those of the Church. At every Sunday Liturgy we sing or recite the Creed, in which we confess that we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. These words which define the Church are also words that define the Saints. The Saints are One because they are all together. We speak of the communion of the saints; these Saints are One, they are united. The Saints are also obviously holy. The word Saint means holy. The Saints are also Catholic. This word does not mean only Roman Catholic. We mean ‘Catholic’ in the original sense of the word. ‘Catholic’ means “Universal” The Saints, that is, are the same in all places and at all times. Thus today, on this Feast of All Saints, we commemorate all the Saints of all countries and of all centuries and of all backgrounds. We recall Saints of all ages, of all nationalities, men, women and children, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the healthy and the sick. They all confessed the same One and true Catholic Faith. The Saints are universal in time and space; they are indeed “Catholic”.

Reason for the Solemnity of all Saints

Although each is in eternal glory, most of their names are not attached to a liturgical feast, a parish Church, a pious society, or any other ecclesiastical institution. This catch-all feast that we celebrate today is all the recognition they may ever receive from the Church. However, the Church does not canonize saints simply to honor them; the Church makes saints in order to provide a steady, ever renewable stream of exemplars, or sacraments, of Christ, lest our following of Christ be reduced to some kind of abstract, intellectual exercise.

The Saints are not a small caste of chosen souls but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude not only includes the officially recognized Saints, but the baptized of every epoch and nation who sought to carry out the divine will faithfully and lovingly. We are unacquainted with the faces and even the names of many of them, but with the eyes of faith we see them shine in God's firmament like glorious stars.

In this Solemnity of All Saint the Church is celebrating her dignity as “other of the Saints, an image of the Eternal City” and displays her beauty as the immaculate Bride of Christ, source and model of all holiness. She certainly does not lack contentious or even rebellious children, but it is in the Saints that she recognizes her characteristic features and precisely in them displays her deepest joy.

This, then, is the meaning of today’s Solemnity: looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention.

How can we become holy and friends of God?

We can first give a negative answer to this question; to be a Saint requires neither extraordinary actions or works nor the possession of exceptional charisms. Then comes the positive reply: it is necessary first of all to listen to Jesus and then to follow him without losing heart when faced by difficulties. “If anyone serves me”, he warns us, “he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him” John 12: 26. Like the grain of wheat buried in the earth, those who trust him and love him sincerely accept dying to themselves. Indeed, he knows that whoever seeks to keep his life for himself loses it, and whoever gives himself, loses himself, and in this very way finds life. John 12: 24-25.

First reading: Revelation 7:2-4,9-14

In the first reading, the author of the Book of Revelation describes them as “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” Revelation 7:9. This people includes the Saints of the Old Testament, starting with the righteous Abel and the faithful Patriarch, Abraham, those of the New Testament, the numerous early Christian Martyrs and the Blessed and Saints of later centuries, to the witnesses of Christ in this epoch of ours. They are all brought together by the common desire to incarnate the Gospel in their lives under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the life-giving spirit of the People of God.

But why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this Solemnity, mean anything to the Saints? A famous homily of St Bernard for All Saints’ Day begins with this question. It could equally well be asked today. And the response the Saint offers us is also timely: “The Saints”, he says, “have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs.... But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning” (Disc. 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff.).

Take a close look at these words again: Do you know who these people are? Dressed in white robes and where they come from? I answered; you can tell me my Lord.  Then he said, these are the people who have been through grate persecution and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the lamb. The first reading invites us to lift up our eyes and contemplate the state of holiness of the Father has prepared for us but we must put up with this life. The lamb will break the vicious cycle of suffering and will reveal the mystery of our existence. The trials you face should not upset, discourage or even frighten you. Disease, pain and betrayal are not defeats but are steps towards growth and coming of age. Death is not the final mockery, it’s a birth.

The white robes symbolize joy and innocence while braches are a sign of victory. This vision of heaven gives meaning to our existence: we are not wondering aimlessly on earth. The light from heaven helps us to see that our life is multiplicity of entries and exits, guided not by blind destiny but by the love of the Father.

Beside the handful of saints whose feast days we celebrate on specific days in the year, there are countless other Saints and Martyrs, men, women and children united with God in the heavenly glory whom we do not celebrate. Many of these would be our own parents and grand-parents who were heroic women and men of faith. Today we keep their honorable memory. In many ways, therefore, today’s feast can be called the feast of the Unknown Saint.

We celebrate what this first reading calls “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands” Revelation 7:9. The Church’s experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The truth is that God will not abandon in death those who give up their lives for the sake of their faith, they will receive from Him true life. The first seed of life is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Second reading: 1John 3:1-3

The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him. Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy cf. Isaiah 6:3. In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are” I John 3:1. It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.

Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, ‘losing ourselves’ and it is precisely this that makes us happy. Surely, everyone who entertain this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ. The life that the Christian receives in baptism is a spiritual and a mysterious reality.

Our senses cannot see or touch it but, its presence does not go unnoticed because its signs cannot go unnoticed. Signs can easily be detected. This new reality is totally incompatible with the way of the thinking of those who live in darkness. This is why the enemies of Jesus cannot see it. The Father does not wait until we die to give us this new reality. He starts revealing it now. Yet in the presence of Christ, this reality will be fully revealed.

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

Unfortunately, our reaching the fullness of life with the saints does not happen automatically. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" Matthew 7:21. How do we live a life of doing the will of our heavenly Father? The answer is given us in today’s gospel, the Beatitudes, where Jesus gives his followers a road map to a happy eternity. All the saints we celebrate today walked the hard and narrow path of the Beatitudes to arrive at heavenly bliss. On the feast of All Saints the Church invites us and challenges us to walk the walk, not just to talk the talk, of the saints.

Does the Gospel of this feast that proclaims the Beatitudes provoke reaction in us today? Jesus says: blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed those who mourn, the meek; blessed those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful; blessed the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted for the sake of justice cf. Matthew 5: 3-10. In truth, the blessed par excellence is only Jesus. He is the factual poor in spirit, the one afflicted, the meek one, the one hungering and thirsting for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker. He is the one persecuted for the sake of justice.  The Beatitudes show us the spiritual features of Jesus and thus express his mystery, the mystery of his death and Resurrection, of his passion and of the joy of his Resurrection. This mystery, which is the mystery of true blessedness, invites us to follow Jesus and thus to walk toward it.

Today the beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice. They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to become the peacemakers in our dealings with one another, in our families and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes us to ridicule and persecution.

None of the saints we celebrate today had it as their aim in life to amass wealth, to acquire power or to gain popularity. Rather they looked forward to the eternal reward which God gives to his faithful ones at the end of this short earthly life of illusion. Such a way is narrow and hard, we need faith and courage to walk it. The example of the saints and their prayers encourage us and help us on. St Augustine found it hard to live the beatitudes, but when he read the lives of the saints he said,

‘What these ordinary women and men have done, why not me? Why not?’ Faith assures us all who heed the call of Jesus and live the life of the beatitudes that at the end of life we shall, together with all the saints, hear the consoling words of the Lord, Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your master

We need to keep in mind that holiness can mainly be achieved when we agree to climb the mountain of our life. Christ is a revolutionalist and a sign of contradiction. He wants us to rise up out of the earth where normal people live, people who practice worldly wisdom and shrewdness. Natural shrewdness leads us to think that health is everything, success is all important, that blessed is one who has large bank account, happy the person who enjoys life. Some of us even think that to suffer or to give up things for others is not for me. To avoid the risk of wasting our lives, we must know what God thinks. God’s proposals sound foolish for those whose minds are filled with world’s wisdom. These values of the kingdom must be seen and understood in the context of total detachment and sharing with others especially the poor.

The poor are not those who have nothing but those who do not keep anything for themselves. This voluntary poverty is an essential characteristic of a real Christian. Those who mourn are those who have no shelter, no fields to cultivate, those who suffer injustice, exploitation, disgrace and humiliation. Where there are saints, these injustices end. The meek are those who do not respond to provocation. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are those who live in continuous search of the truth peace and justice.

Those who are merciful are in constant supply of compassion and forgiveness. The clean of heart are those that behave according to the will of God, those who have an undivided heart and do not worship both God and idols. The peace makers are those who work so that all enjoy a life of peace and are thus termed children of God while those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are the courageous ones. Jesus does not offer false promises. Who ever stands for righteousness will pay dearly. Persecution is not a mark of failure but rather a sign of success. Persecution a reason to rejoice, it proves that we have chosen well, according to the wisdom of God. Love and forgiveness are the only forces capable of breaking the spiral of violence. On our way to sainthood, people may look at us as losers but in the eyes of God we are blessed.

Application

But who are the saints? The saints are supposed to be you my brothers and sisters, loved and praised because we pray to the same Father. As followers of Jesus Christ we are all invited to be holy whether we are already with Christ in heaven or are still struggling here on earth. Today this is our feast; today we are invited to remain members of the divine family through Christ because we have received his spirit. The Saints we know teach us to be holy and capable so as to remain credible witnesses of the Risen Lord.

 

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Luganda: 7:30 am.  English: 9:00 am, 11:00 am and 5;00 pm.

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About Our Church

Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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