Theme: Our destiny
The feast of All Saints, on 1st of November, provides an annual reminder that there are many saints in heaven than the relatively few who have been officially recognized by the Church. For every St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa of Calcutta there are thousands of unknown male and female saints who witnessed the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ publicly.
The Communion of Saints therefore is a union that exists between all the members of the Church on earth, in heaven, and in purgatory. Members on earth comprise the Church Militant, those in heaven the Church Triumphant and those in purgatory the Church Suffering. To be a saint is opting to live a holy life. Holiness is more than righteousness. Holiness is that downright devotion to God; the confession of Christ before people even when it entails carrying the Cross.
First reading: Revelation 7:2-4,9-14
Revelation describes saints as “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” Revelation 7:9. This people include Abel, Abraham the numerous Christian Martyrs and the Blessed Saints brought together by the common desire to incarnate the Gospel in their lives under the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Why should our praise and glorification mean anything to the Saints? A homily of St Bernard for All Saints Day clarifies, “Saints 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). The book of Revelation says: 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 Revelation 7:13-14. These words invite us to lift up our eyes and contemplate the state of holiness the Father has prepared for us. The lamb will break the vicious cycle of suffering and will reveal the mystery of our existence.
The trials we face should not upset, discourage or even frighten us. 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. We are not wondering aimlessly on earth, this vision of heaven gives meaning to our existence. 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 several of saints whose feast days we celebrate on specific days in the year, there are countless other Saints and Martyrs united with God in the heavenly glory that we celebrate on all Saints Day. Many of these are our relatives and friends who were heroic people of faith. 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. Experience shows that every form of holiness follows a unique path and always passes through the Way of the Cross and self-denial. The truth is that God will not abandon those who surrender their lives for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
Second reading: 1John 3:1-3
Holiness demands a constant effort from everyone. In this reading the Apostle John states: “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 who loves us first and made us his adoptive sons and daughters in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love. In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him. The more we imitate and remain united to him the deeper 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. The life a Christian receives in baptism is spiritual and a mysterious reality. Our senses cannot see or touch it but its presence can easily be detected. This new reality is totally incompatible with the way of the thinking of those who live in darkness; that 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 because Jesus Christ is alive in us.
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
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. We can do the will of our heavenly Father by practicing the Beatitudes which are Jesus’ road map to a happy eternity. 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 and challenges us to follow the path less traveled. Jesus states: 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 in his death and Resurrection. This mystery of true blessedness invites us to focus on Jesus and to follow him to the end.
Today the beatitudes propose to us a way of life 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 at the end of this short earthly life of illusions. This way is narrow and hard, to manage it we need faith and courage. 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? Faith assures all who heed the call of Jesus and live the life of the beatitudes that at the end of life we shall be glorious with such expressions: well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your master.
Holiness like any success can only 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 stand out in this world where normal people live, people who practice worldly shrewdness. Shrewdness wants us to think that health is everything, success is the most important, that blessed is one with large bank account, happy the person who enjoys life. Some of us even think that to suffer 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 worldly wisdom. These values of the kingdom must be understood in the context of total detachment and sharing with others especially the poor.
The poor are those who could have everything but keep nothing for themselves. This voluntary poverty is an essential characteristic of a real Christian. Those who mourn are those who are compassionate, although they would have opted to stay indifferent to the trials of others. Where there are saints, these injustices end. The meek are those who do not respond to provocation. Those who hunger and thirst for what is right are those who live in continuous search for truth and peace. 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. The peace makers are those who work hard to make God visible. The righteousness are the courageous ones. 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 a long run we are blessed.
We are invited to be brothers and sisters of saints because we belong to the same Father. We are all invited to be holy no matter where we may find ourselves. This is our feast today thus we are invited to remain members of the divine family through Christ because we have received his spirit. Being people of the Beatitudes we are reminded to be holy and capable so as to remain credible witnesses of the Risen Lord.