Here we are again in the month of November that opens with the commemoration All Saints, followed by the commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. As the name suggests, it’s about all the saints, that is, all men and women who have entered the glory of heaven. How does this feast stimulate our hope, faith and charity?
Bible Readings Apocalypse 7:2-4, 9-14 Psalm 24:1-6 1 John 3: 1-3 Matthew 5: 1-12
Indeed, the feast of All Saints orients our attention to the men and women who already enjoy the plenitude of life and happiness, which are our aspirations. Although we don’t know how it’s like that side, John gives something to whet our appetite: “After this I looked, and there was 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. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
Saints outside the calendar
Indeed, throughout the year we commemorate different saints yet they are not the only ones, there several others. In fact, those who have been canonised make up only a small number. We may have known other saints in our families, our neighbourhood or in places of work. Probably none of them will be canonised, however, that does not mean there are no less saints than others. They are. Conscious of this reality the church consecrates a day for all these saints.
When we think of saints as those who we may have shared life with us or lived realities of life close to ours; we feel encouraged to forge on towards our destination.
The road may be rough
On the pilgrimage of our life we don’t always sing hosanna. We think of those caught up in endless wars, those persecuted, victims of natural calamities and epidemic or those mourning their dear ones; at such moments there are tears. It’s in the midst of such experiences that the saints we are commemorating lived. That’s why John speaks of them as: “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Whitening robs in blood?
Indeed, it’s because their sainthood it’s the victory of good over evil, life over death; like those early Christians who kept the faith despite persecutions. That’s why these saints may say like Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7); of course, by God’s grace.
We too are invited to cooperate with this grace in order to remain steadfast till the end. There we realise that reaching the joy of heaven is basically a gift offered to us. Here think of psalm 24.
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god” (Ps 24:3-4). It’s a demand beyond our reach for who can claim to have clean hands and pure heart? But by feast of All Saints we are not celebrating supermen for the road to holiness is not like a bodybuilder displaying his force. Saints are pardoned and healed sick people. And we are still on this journey of healing.
The Gospel opens with an observation which I prefer to call a diagnosis. Jesus, the physician of our hearts, looks at the people following him and climbs the mountain and begins to teach them. It’s like he’s identified their hunger and their thirst. Isn’t every person seeking the fullness of life and happiness? Well, Jesus gives the prescription a kind of do-it-yourself (DIY). He gives the beatitudes, the ways of plenitude of life and happiness. Notably, what Jesus proposes is not only different but also opposed to what the world suggests to us. It means, this call to holiness extended to every person implies living fully, and committed to our tasks in the world, yet, letting oneself be permeated by the spirit of the beatitude. Indeed, it’s here on earth we called to be saints, not in heaven after death –it will be too late.
Besides, the saints we are commemorating are not just a crowd but individual persons who followed Christ, each in his different way. It means each one discovered his way of beatitude, walked it faithfully despite the many trials. They may have fallen, but they knew also, by God’s grace, to pick themselves up and continue the way –keeping the direction. That’s the victory they celebrate; God’s grace that accompanied them through twists and turns of their lives. May this same grace accompany us too on our own journey.
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