Rev. 7:2-4,9-14; 1Jn 3:1-3; Mtt 5:1-12
CALLED TO BE SAINTS
Dear Brothers and Sisters, today, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints.
- THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS
The Opening Prayer of this Holy Mass very briefly but clearly expresses what we celebrate on this occasion. “Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, today we rejoice in the holy men and women of every time and place. May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love.” Indeed, we are rejoicing in the saints, the holy men and women of every age and place. This sentiment in also expressed in our First Reading, taken from the Book of the Apocalypse. There, Saint John tells us about the vision of heaven which God allowed him to see. “I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands” (Apocalypse 7:9). The Preface of this Mass also tells us what it is that all of us joyfully celebrate today “the festival of your eternal city, the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother, where the great array of our brothers and sister already gives you eternal praise.”
- A UNIVERSAL CALL TO HOLINESS
This solemn reminds us more than ever that the Church is a COMMUNION. It is the Communion of Saints. “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the Saints? The Communion of Saints is the Church” (CCC 946). Each and every member of the Church is called to be a saint. Each and everyone of us is called to holiness. To the Israelites, the Chosen People, God spoke through Moses, saying: “Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy, for I, your God, am holy’” (Leviticus 19:1-2). In a later text, God says: “Be consecrated to me, because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I will set you apart from all these people so that you may be mine” (Leviticus 20:26). Expressions like these are found throughout the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, St. Paul very frequently and insistently tells us, with very strong emphasis, that each and every disciple of Jesus is called to holiness of life.
To the Thessalonians, Saint Paul writes: “What God wants is for you all to be holy” (1Thess 4:3).
To the Ephesians, he says: “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3-5).
To the Colossians, Paul writes: “You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:12).
And to the Romans, he says: “Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do” (Romans 12:1-2).
It is on account of this clear teaching of Holy Scripture on the universal call to holiness that the Lord Jesus exhorts us, his followers: “You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). He Himself stands as the Author and Finisher of this holiness of life. For He sent the Holy Spirit upon all people that He might inspire them from within to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength (cf. Mk. 12:30) and that they might love one another as Christ loved them
- WHERE THE SAINTS ARE, WE ARE DESTINED TO BE
In our Second Reading of this Mass, a Reading taken from the First Letter of Saint John, we heard the following words: “My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ” (I John 3:2-3). These words clearly tell us that if we truly want to attain that blessed life which the Saints have already attained, if we really want to reach that destiny of eternal happiness which God has prepared for each and everyone of us, then we have got to strive, already here on earth, everyday, to purify ourselves, “to be as pure as Christ” (I John 3:3).
In fact, the Responsorial Psalm of this Holy Mass tells us very clearly about the conditions to be fulfilled if we really want to go to heaven. The Psalmist says: Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things. (Psalm 23:3-4).
Because God has made us as creatures endowed with intelligence and free will, it is, unfortunately, possible for us to make a wrong use of our freedom by turning our backs on God, refusing to keep his commandments. That is why Saint Paul says: “Do not delude yourself into thinking God can be cheated: where a man sows, there he reaps: if he sows in the field of self-indulgence he will get a harvest of corruption out of it; if he sows in the field of the Spirit he will get from it a harvest of eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Today’s Gospel, taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, said, inter alia: “Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). This, too, reminds us that if we want to enjoy the beatific vision at the end of our earthly life, that eternal vision of God which the Saints are now enjoying, then, as the Second Reading of this Mass tells us, each one of us “must purify himself, must try to be pure as Christ” (I John 3:3).
- IMPLICATIONS OF OUR CALL TO HOLINESS
Does our call to holiness also involve our ordinary daily activities: life at home in our families, school activities, professional activities, business, recreation, etc? The answer is undoubtedly Yes!
The Fathers of Vat II (in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium) say categorically about the role of the laity in the Church: “The vocation of the lay faithful to holiness implies that life according to the Spirit expresses itself in a particular way in their involvement in temporal affairs and in their participation in earthly activities.” Once again the Apostle, Paul, admonishes us: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17). Applying the apostle’s words to the lay faithful, the Council Fathers categorically affirm: “Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be excluded from their religious programme of life”. (Lumen Gentium 31). It is by our faithfulness in serving God in the “little things” of our daily lives that we can attain sainthood. The celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints is, therefore, a powerful reminder that we, who are still on pilgrimage here on earth, are by no means separated from the Saints in heaven. Many of those Saints are our own brothers and sisters, our own parents, relatives and friends whom we personally knew. Today the Church honours all the Saints, including those who have not been officially canonized by the Church.
At the end of the Preface at Holy Mass, we always use the following, or similar word: “With Angels and Archangels and with the whole Company of Saints we sing our unending hymn of praise.” We say this because we know, through our faith, that the Holy Mass truly and really unites heaven and earth, making us truly one with the Angels and Saints. Every time we participate at Holy Mass, we can say with the Psalmist: “Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem” (Ps 122:2).