[1 November 2021]
On this Feast of All Saints we can think of all the saints in heaven – all those who through their lives of faith on earth are witnesses to the saving power of God. “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” Paul says in Hebrews, “let us rid ourselves of every burden that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame and has taken his seat at the right hand of God…” (Heb 12;1-2)
The joyful contemplation of all the saints in heaven – including not only the stars and megastars like Ignatius, Francis, Theresa of Avila, Peter and Paul, Joseph and Mary but also our loved ones and friends who have died believing in the salvation of the Lord – allows us to recall our own calling to holiness, presuming we have heeded the fundamental call of Jesus: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” St. Peter says, “Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with your former ignorance, but as he who has called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy, as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
That, of course, is a tall order: to be holy as God is holy. To be holy as God who in his being is totally different from us who are not holy, yet has in his holiness become one with us, utterly like us, God with us, that we might be a holy people. Be holy, as God is holy. This is echoed in Matthew: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Remember: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10).
This is why not only those triumphant in heaven but also those who were living by faith in Jesus in the hope of redemption were called “saints” – which comes from the Latin word sanctus for holy. Paul called those whom he is writing, guiding, and encouraging in Rome, in Corinth, in Colossae and in Ephesus, “saints” or those “sanctified [made holy] in Christ Jesus.” Saints are also those for whom sanctity is a work of hope in Jesus, a work in progress, God’s work in progress.
It is that which allows us to understand today’s Good News: Blessed, holy, saints are you who are striving for holiness in your poverty in spirit, in your mourning, in your humility, in your hungering and thirsting for righteousness, in your mercy, in striving for integrity of heart, in your peacemaking, in accepting ridicule, insult and persecution in following Christ. (cf Mt. 5:1-11). Saints, holy, blessed are you who share your food, your drink, your clothing, your compassion, your care with the least, the lowly, the lost, the marginalized, the discarded – the person needy in front of you. That you shared with me (cf. Mt. 25:31-46).
Blessed are you, “for your reward will be great in heaven.” (cf. Mt. 5:1-12). To you, the Judge of Heaven and Earth says, “Come, you who are blessed of my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 26:24).
A blessed Feast of All Saints! God is holy. “God is love. Whoever remains in love remain in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is [holy, love], so are we in the world. … We love because God first loved us” (cf: I Jn 4: 16-19).
For all the saints, to God be the glory (Gal 1:4-5)! For us, saints “rejoicing in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2), let us “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:1b-2a).