All Saints Day – 15
Rev 7:2-4, 9-14 / 1Jn.3:1-3 / Mt.5:1-12
The Beatitudes may be one of the most familiar in all of scripture. Its litany of what it means to be “blessed” can be seen as the ultimate blueprint for living the Christian life. In the context of today’s feast, it tells us: this is how you become a saint.
All Saints Day is intended to honor the memory of countless unknown and un-canonized saints who have no feast days. Today we thank God for giving ordinary men and women a share in His holiness and Heavenly glory as a reward for their Faith.
The Church reminds us today that God’s call for holiness is universal, that all of us are called to live in His love and to make His love real in the lives of those around us. Today is All Saints Day. To better understand the meaning of this Feast day, we need to know what a saint is.
There are really two meanings of the word saint, two ways that we use this word, and they reflect the two meanings of this Feast. “Saint” means “those who belong to God”, so it partially means all the people in heaven, but it also means all the people in the Church, including us.
We belong to God. So today we celebrate the achievements of all the saints in heaven, and we celebrate the possibility of all the saints on earth. What is the achievement of the saints in heaven? They are happy. They are praising God forever. They are doing what humans were meant to do.
If a saint from heaven appeared to us right here, we would think they were an angel or one of the ancient gods, but really they are just a human like you and me. Just some Joe or Sally who lived the way we live. On earth their appearance probably was not impressive, but now we would be embarrassed to stand in their presence.
“What is it like to be a Christian saint?” “It is like being a Halloween pumpkin. God picks you from the field, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off you. Then he cuts off the top and scoops out the yucky stuff. He removes the pulp of impurity and injustice and seeds of doubt, hate, and greed.
Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light of holiness inside you to shine for the entire world to see.” This is the Christian idea behind the carved pumpkins during the Halloween season.
Today’s feast of All Saints proclaims a very profound teaching on the spiritual authority of the Church. With the authority bestowed on her by Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes the bold declaration of the names of those who have attained the reward of heaven.
There are over 10,000 canonized saints and just recently, we also witnessed the canonization of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. When the Church officially canonizes a person to be a saint, the Church also declared that the person is in heaven and in the presence of God.
This feast is also for us a feast of awareness and closeness – an awareness of the spiritual world, and the closeness, the communion, of those saints with us. As people of God and people of faith, we believe that the saints are canonized not for their own honor but for the glory of God.
And to some of these saints are given a particular mission. For example, on Wednesday, we celebrated the feast of St. Jude (Thaddeus), patron saint of desperate and helpless cases. And then for lost articles, we turn to that famous saint, St. Anthony of Padua.
And as for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, she is the patron saint of the missions and also of florists. The awareness of the saints and their particular missions will also lead us to be in communion with them. Because their main heavenly mission is to help us on our earth journey.
To help us to live the life of holiness and to do the will of God and to grow into a deep love for God and neighbor. The Beatitudes that we heard in the gospel is the expression of the lives that the saints lived while on earth, and it is also the life that we are called to live.
And as much as the saints want to pray for us, we must ask them for their intercession. And now, what is our possibility, we saints on earth? To be like those saints in heaven. A few years from now, not so many, probably less than we expect, we might be in heaven.
We might be like the angels. But how do we turn this possibility into a reality? The answer is in the readings today. Revelation tells us that salvation belongs to our God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. If we are going to get into heaven, it will not be by our own strength.
In Revelation we see all the saints in heaven praising God. If you want to grow up to be a basketball player or a violinist or anything else, you have to practice, practice, and practice. If you want to grow up to be a saint, you have to practice praising God.
We do not praise God because he has low self-esteem. We do not praise him for his benefit but for our own. We praise God not out of flattery or fear but because it is the truth. He is great. He is wise. He is powerful. He is wonderful. He is mighty. We forget these things unless we say them.
We begin to think that some human person, ourselves perhaps or a star, is the greatest, or, if get beyond this delusion, we begin to think that nothing in existence is really that great after all. If we are going to become saints we have to learn the truth: there is something wonderful in this universe and it is God.
The psalm gives us advice about how to get to heaven. It asks, “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord or who may stand in his holy place?” This was the very question we had, but the answer is not as easy as we hope.
That higher standard is set today in the Gospel today. We have heard the beatitudes, these beautiful blessings. Some people consider them to be a kind of commandment, but I think they ought to be thought of more as a ruler.
The saints are closer to us than we may realize. They have struggled with sin and temptation, they’ve walked the journey toward holiness, sometimes stumbling, sometimes falling, but always getting back up and moving on, resolving to do better, to be better, and to aim higher.
They worked to be what this gospel is calling us to be. To be poor in spirit. To be meek. To be merciful. To make peace. This is how we begin to become what Jesus called “blessed,” and what the Church calls saints. It’s a tall order. And it is nothing less than a call to greatness.
But this feast day reminds us, whether we realize it or not: it can be ours. This kind of greatness is within our grasp. All Saints Day beckons us to something beautiful. It reminds us of our great potential—the promise that lies within each of us, the promise of holiness.
It is the promise that was fulfilled in the countless people we venerate this day—our models, our companions, our inspirations, our guides. All the saints. They give us blessed hope. Because they assure us again and again: no one is born a saint. But every one of us, by the grace of God, can become one.
All Saints Day is nothing less than a dare. This feast says to us: dare to be more. Dare to be a saint. Amen.