All Saints November 1, 2008

Revelation 7:2-4,9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a

Today we celebrate the memory of all the known and unknown saints who are in the presence of God enjoying the heavenly bliss. They are the ones who have secured their heavenly reward for the saintly life they lived while on earth. A saint is one who has lived an extraordinary life of holiness and has been recognised by the church through the process of canonisation or beatification.  We as human persons have certain attachment or devotion to some saints like St Anthony, St Joseph, and St Francis and so on. But there re many more that have lived a quiet, silent life, a life of privation and are in the heavenly bliss. We honour them too today as we celebrate this solemnity of All Saints. Therefore today’s feast uses the word in a much wider sense. It refers to all those baptised Christians who have died and are now with God in glory. It also certainly includes all those who lived a good life sincerely in accordance with the convictions of their conscience and have sought God in the depth of their hearts.

This Feast was instituted in the Eastern Church during the 4th century for the purpose or remembering all the martyrs of the early Church. Gradually, it developed to also include the non-martyrs. As such, it can be said that the purpose of this Feast in the Holy Catholic Church serves to commemorate all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, known and unknown, who have moved on to their eternal glory. This Feast makes us aware of our call and our status of sainthood.  Every age, race, language, people and nation have produced saints, holy men and women who pleased God and now share his glory. St Paul tells the Romans, that we are all called to be saints.  In the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, we read that “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus are called to be saints.”   More precisely, the New Testament reminds us that we are not only called to be saints, but also, that we are saints.

Our First Reading taken from the Book of Revelation tells us that “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, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” These were the ones who suffered for Christ and “they who have come out of the great ordeal… who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” It is the blood of Jesus Christ which brings salvation but only to those who have united with him in sharing its effects. Many of them, of course, are martyrs and they have mingled their own blood with that of Jesus. These saints, we remember today. It is a picture of total victory and the end of all the pains and sorrows they endured in this life.

The Second Reading from the First Letter of John reminds us of the great love of God who has chosen to call us His children. During our sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. “What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”  Because we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ, those of the world do not and cannot possibly know us. For the world looks for fame, pleasures, wealth and not knowing Jesus, they cannot understand our love for God and for others.

In the Gospel of today we have the Eight Beatitudes which introduce the Sermon on the Mount. It is, in fact, a charter for holiness, a total Christian living. They tell us of the values of Jesus as against the values of the world. Jesus rejects that thing held in high esteem by the world.  They are a kind of mission statement saying what kind of person the good Christian will be. It says blessed are those poor in spirit. They are the anawim, the poor of Yahweh and are open to receive the word of God. They are persons who have only God as their fulfilment.  Blessed are those who are gentle: These are the people who reach out to others in care and compassion and tenderness, who constantly are aware of the needs of others.  Then, blessed are those who mourn: those who are in grief or sorrow for whatever reason will be assured of comfort from the loving community in Christ they have entered. Again, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right. They indeed have to pay a big price. Whatever be the price, they will work that everyone is given their due to live a life of dignity and self-respect. The price they may have to pay could be very high, even life itself.  Remembering the beatitude of mercy, they are the ones who extend compassion and forgiveness to all around them and receive the same.  Blessed are those who are pure in heart, meaning those people who are simple, devoid of duplicity, prejudice or bias. Not surprisingly, they are described as those able to see God. For such people God’s presence is all too obvious in every person and experience. The peace makers get perhaps the best of the rewards. These are people who help to break down the many barriers which divide people and these people are called “children of God”. God sent Jesus among us precisely to break down the barriers and bring peace. Those who are persecuted in the cause of right are blessed. They have the strength and courage to put the values of truth and love and justice for all above their own survival. They like the saints sacrificed their lives for truth, love and justice.

This is the kind of Christian we are all called to be. It is these qualities which made the saints and which will make saints of us too.  They did something good and positive. This feast is an occasion for great thanksgiving. There are many of our family, relatives and friends who have gone before us and their sainthood we celebrate today. We look forward to the day when we, too, will be with them experiencing the same total happiness and joy and partake in the heavenly banquet, where there will be no hunger or thirst and where God will wipe away all tears from their eyes”.

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