All Saints, 31 Oct 21
The Feast of All Saints is one, surely, that gives each of us who are baptised Christians hope for our eternal future.
Unusually there is no Old Testament reading set for today but the second reading from the first letter of St. John to the whole Church in all times in a special sense sets the theme when the writer asks the reader to “Think of the love the Father has lavished upon us, by letting us be called God`s children; and that is what we are.” And a couple of verses later continues: “…we shall be like him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”
Yes, though we are celebrating those already in Heaven who are the Saints of God by reason of their obedience to Christ – many even to great suffering and death – and whom we count as our friends, our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in the fullness of faith and now rejoice in the very Presence of God and of The Lamb, and whom we rightly call upon to pray for us and assist us on our pilgrim journey. We also rejoice in the fact that we too are called to be saints. Indeed, that holiness or sanctity was poured upon us by the free gift of God`s adoption grace when were made brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ in the Waters of Baptism.
Our Gospel reading for today is the longer version of The Beatitudes, taught by Our Lord in his Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by St. Matthew in Chapter 5 of his Gospel as a great pointer to the way in which true followers of Jesus should endeavour to live.
What then ae the objectives of this Feast ? Almost every branch of the Christian Church, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant has its Calendar of Saints that are known to them or dear to them – the most important of which is, of course, Mary the Virgin Mother of God, Queen of the Saints who brought the Son of God into the world or our salvation. There are the Apostles – and they were a pretty rum lot, the Prophets, the Martyrs, Popes and Pastors and so we could go on but today is about those good ordinary souls who followed Jesus in a multitude of ways and are mostly uncanonised by the Church and unknown except to God Himself and perhaps a handful of ordinary Christians whom they have inspired by their lives of Christian love and service. In my own case I can think of the parish priest who prepared me for confirmation and set me on the road to God`s vocation to me for ordination, the kindness of the little Sister, aptly named Mary of Nazareth, or taught me with such love and kindness at infant school and many others who by their lives of Christian love, devotion and service have been an inspiration and example.
There is a great diversity of saints: Thomas Aquinas, a towering intellectual contrasting with S. John Vianney, who had to struggle in order to make it through Seminary and yet was loved and sought after as a wise confessor and spiritual director. There is Antony of Egypt who found sanctity in the harshness and solitude of the desert. There is Hildegard of Bingen singing and throwing flowers being madly in love with God and Therese of Lisieux who said: “Convert every action into prayer by offering it to God for His glory and for the salvation of souls and by doing God`s will to the best of one`s ability”. There is Edward the Confessor, King of England, who is remembered for building Westminster Abbey not long before the Norman Conquest but more importantly loved by his people because of his love for God and for his care for the poorest in society. There are saints of our own age like Oscar Romero, Edith Stein, or Martin Luther King who, not long before he was so brutally assassinated was speaking to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadel.phia where he delivered his “What is your Life`s Blueprint ?” speech which is the tale of a street sweeper, ”Regardless of what we do we should always aspire to be the best we can at what we do. It is the secret of living saintly lives as well, If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michaelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets lke Beethoven composed music….sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have toi pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” There is just such a guy round the corner seeping part of the High Road, to whom I often chat, who does a good job, is friendly to those around him, always has a smile or a song and always praising God in what he says and in the way he works.
The saints are our role models who teach jus by their lives that Christ`s holy life of love, mercy, and unconditional forgiveness can be lived, with God`s grace, by ordinary people for all walks of life and in all times.
The saints are our Heavenly friends who intercede for us before Jesus who is the only mediator between God and us . (James 5:16-18, Revelation 8, 3-4). We need to accept the challenge to become saints. Jesus exhorts us: “ Be made perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5, 48).
The first reading we had today from the last book in the Bible, the Apocalypse or Revelation to St. John tells of John`s vision of the saints in their heavenly glory, “ a great multitude that no one could number, form 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” (Rev. 7,9.) and this All Saints Day reminds us that we are called to be part of that vast multitude of Holy Ones and in the Gospel reading where Jesus offers his hearers AND US the Beatitiudes which can help us to walk the hard and narrowp ath to arrive at Heavenly bliss. The Beatitudes, to put it another way, are God`s Commandments expressed in positive terms going much farther that what is required by the Ten Commandments of old. The first one: “How happy the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is the need to recognise our need of God. As soon as we do this with sincerity and love the gate to the narrow path is opened! The rest of the Beatitudes mus wait for a sermon on another occasion.
Let us rejoice that as Children of God we are called to be saints and if we sincerely follow the path then by His grace, our Heavenly Father will provide the way by His Son and through the Holy Spirit that we may achieve the fulfilment of our calling.