All Saints Day (22nd Sunday after
Pentecost)—1 November AD 2009
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
”After this, I saw a great multitude which
no man could number, of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing
before the throne and in sight of the Lamb ...”
Today is the feast of All Saints, the
day on which the Church honors all of Its saints, including—perhaps I should
say “especially”—those who are unknown to us, and who have not been
formally canonized or declared to be saints. Essentially, this is a feast
in honor of all those holy souls who have persevered in the love of God, keeping
His Commandments, and uniting their will to His.
Perhaps that definition surprises some
of us—because we are more accustomed to hearing a worldly definition of
sanctity—one which views sanctity as unusual, or even weird—one which
assumes that being a saint is something reserved for the very few who can be in
two places at the same time, or who glow in the dark, or float a few inches
above the floor. Saints, the world assumes, all have long faces, and have
somehow escaped from the cares of the world.
In reality, the opposite is more nearly
correct. One is more likely to become a saint by facing responsibility in
the world, rather than by ignoring it. Very few saints glow in the
dark—in fact, the Church cautions us to place very little importance on such
showy phenomena. Most importantly, we must realize that we are all called
to be saints. God made us to show forth His goodness in this world, and to
share His happiness in heaven—and that is what it really means to be a
saint—to share God's happiness in eternity.
Look at the reading this morning from
Saint John’s Apocalypse. It describes the assembly of the saints in
heaven before the throne of God. But there are far more than just a few
eccentric souls. There are twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes
of Israel—one hundred and forty four thousand souls. But Saint John
continues: “After this, I saw a great multitude which no man could
number, of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the
throne and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their
hands; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, «Salvation to our God who
sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb. »” A multitude of people so
great that no one could count it. There must have been quite a few
ordinary souls there.
If there is any doubt as to whether or
not we are called to be saints, all we have to do is consider the
alternative—and eternity of misery, suffering with the devils in hell.
Not much of a choice, is it?!
Now, given this choice between heaven
and hell, we ought to give some consideration to what is required to ensure
sanctity instead of damnation. We may not have done much of this, if we
have been laboring under the worldly illusion that we can never be saints.
In a general way, we can say that saints
are those who love God. Clearly, if we go through life loving God, and
treating Him as one whom we love, we can expect His love in return—guaranteed.
To be more specific, we should be mindful of the need for keeping ourselves from
becoming mired down in the material pleasures of the world. Not that they
are necessarily evil, but that they tend to draw us away from the love of God.
Along with focusing on divine things, we
will want to keep God's Commandments. The first three of them simply
remind us what we are trying to accomplish—to love God. If we love Him
we will never desert Him for a false “god,” or a false religion, or abuse
His good name. And certainly, we will want to visit Him in person when He
comes to us at Holy Mass, or waits for us in the tabernacle.
The other seven Commandments are nothing
more or less than the things necessary to live an orderly life—to get along
with those around us, and to preserve our own peace of mind and prosperity.
You may have heard me refer to them as the “Manufacturer’s instructions for
the people whom He created.”
If we love God, we will love our
neighbor for the love of God. We will take for granted the need for doing
good works; for visiting the sick and feeding the hungry; for instructing the
ignorant and counseling the doubtful; for praying for the living and the dead.
The Gospel speaks to this today:
“blessed are the poor in spirit,” the humble, “for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven ... Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and
persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake:
Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.”
And, perhaps most important, as we come
to know and love God, our prayer life will deepen. At first, we will have
to consciously set aside some time and discipline ourselves to prayer. We
will probably have to resist an inner laziness to get ourselves to meditate on
the life of our Lord, in order to appreciate what He has done for us. But,
if we are persistent, we will find ourselves looking forward to prayer—to
conversation with our beloved Lord. And these feelings of Love will
strengthen us in the all important virtues of Faith Hope and Charity.
Today then is the feast of All Saints.
This is a day to honor the holy souls who have gone before us—whoever they
might be—Popes and Confessors, Martyrs and Virgins—but also Butchers, Bakers
and Candlestick makers. This is a day to call upon them and ask for their
intercession, that we might become like them. This is a day to remember
that we too are called to be saints—and a day to start out on working to be