Solemnity of All Saints, Year A.
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 – 1 John 3:1-3 – Matthew 5:10-12.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. Mother Teresa of Calcutta declared that “all you have to do to be a saint is to give God permission” – and that is the difficulty! St. Thomas Aquinas said that becoming a saint is the easiest thing in the world, because God wants it; but that it’s also the most difficult because we do not want it … we feel comfortable with the way we are. What’s the definition of a saint? A saint is someone with Christ in him: as St. Paul puts it, it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me (Gal 2:20). A saint is someone who repents of sin and loves Jesus. Having made sincere efforts to be pure and to love God and our neighbour on earth, God welcomes the saints to heaven. How do we know this? Because Our Lord tells us today to rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven (Mt 5:12).
In the Apostles’ Creed, we assert that we believe in the Communion of saints. The saints are part of our family of faith; they belong to the ‘Church Triumphant’ which comprises those in heaven who have been victorious (who have ‘triumphed’) over the challenges of evil during their lives on earth. Now, our membership of this Faith family of God implies that we too are Children of God. St. John reminds us in the 2nd Reading of the grace of God that raises us to the exalted status of being called Children of God in the present moment, this side of eternity.
We are creatures, in that we have been created by God. By God’s grace, we are even more than that: we are sons and daughters of God (Gal 4:6f) by adoption (2Cor 6:18). We are Children of God (Jn 1:12). In this familial relationship, God goes beyond being responsible for our physical existence as Creator to embrace us in a deep, loving relationship as Father. It is true that all people are literally children of God because He is their Creator, but people only become Children of God when they enter into a loving relationship with Him as Father. When we are living out our lives as Children of God in the here-and-now on earth, we are simultaneously participating in eternal life with God in heaven.
Recall that in Genesis 1:27, we are created in the image and likeness of God. It is the will of God that we should be like Him in love. It is our destiny to behold Him face to face. According to St. John, we shall see God as He is. There is, however, a problem here: fallen humanity has fallen short of the vocation to love God and to love each other. Just turn on the media reports or open the history books to see that we have allowed ourselves to be almost choked to death by our human frailty. When we turn off the media, turn to the Scriptures and listen out for the still small voice of God (cf. 1Ki 19:13) in the silence of our hearts, it will dawn on us that the issues we face (including those in the forefront of the media) boil down to the battle between Good and Evil.
In today’s Gospel, Our Lord is speaking to ordinary people. The state of blessedness is intended for ordinary people. Most saints do ordinary things to reach heaven, which is our ultimate destination. Only through living out the theological virtues (of faith, hope and charity) and the cardinal virtues (of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice) to their full potential can we ourselves attain to that destiny.
All Saints Day celebrates all those people who, by their total submission to Christ, have attained to sainthood. The 1st Reading identifies the saints as those who have persevered in holiness while they were on earth. Today we honour each and every one of the saints, not only those who have been formally canonized, but all of them. We remember them in prayer, and we in turn ask for the prayers of those men and women, girls and boys, who came from all four corners of the earth to serve God as best they could in their lifetimes.
The media today label those who lose their lives for Christ as victims, but the reality is that they are martyrs for the Faith. Others’ heroic faith may or may not be conspicuous to the public, but Christ is present and active in each one of them. When Christ appears, we shall be like Him, says St. John (1Jn 3:2). The objective of all of our earthly labours as Christians is to see God. Beatific vision is the goal of our souls. The Father, transcendent God, cannot be perceived by the human mind, but we can encounter Christ – immanent God – in the Mass, in the Sacraments, in the scriptures, in our neighbour, in our hearts (in our innermost selves), and in that sense we can see Him. We in the ‘Church Militant’ on earth have to struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil and to be aware of our inner poverty in order to gain eternal blessedness. Blessed are the poor in spirit, said Jesus (Mt 5:3). The Beatitudes present us with realistic demands. ‘Poverty of spirit’ does not demand that we throw ourselves deliberately into other aspects of poverty, such as financial poverty. We have to be aware of our poverty and our need of Christ, and to avoid the deadly sin of Pride. Blessedness is defined as attaining gladness for ever. Our instinct for gladness indicates that heaven is our real home.
We live out the promises of the Beatitudes when we purposefully live as members of the family of the Faith. The Solemnity of All Saints is a family feast. The saints include those of our family and friends, relatives and neighbours, parishioners, community members and ancestors who accepted Jesus as Lord, lived according to His Will, shared their faith, their time and their goods with others whilst on earth, and are now rejoicing in heaven. We beg them to pray for us who are still on pilgrimage, that we may remain faithful to God and be blessed in due course to see Him as He is. Amen. God bless you.