Readings: Rev 7:2-4,9-14 – 1 Jn 3:1-3 – Mt 5:1-12a
Today, the Church celebrates all the men and women, young or old, who are in that place we call “heaven”! Today, the Church celebrates all the saints of heaven, all those who, after their death, were judged worthy of eternal happiness in God’s presence! Every one of us has known a saintly person. Today, the Church celebrates all those who, on earth, were ‘poor in spirit’ – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
First Reading: Rev 7:2-4, 9-14: Here we have a vision of the victorious followers of Christ rejoicing in his presence in the heavenly Kingdom. The come from every nation, race, tribe, and language. John, the writer of the book of Revelation, saw an Angel holding the seal of the living God, speaking in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea. He pleaded them to wait until he had sealed the foreheads of the servants of God. There were 1,44,000 saints from every tribe of the children of Israel. John had another vision in which there were numberless people from every nation, race, people and tongue, wearing white robes, shouting, “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” The Angels worshipped God along with the elders and the four living creatures. One of the elders told John that all those with white robes are the ones who washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
Second Reading: 1 Jn 3:1-3: St. John tells us that in heaven we shall see God as he is. However, if we want to attain to this vision we must live like Christ. St. John reminds us of the love of the Father, because of which we are called the children of God. The world does not know this because it did not know the Father. What we shall be in the future is not yet revealed. But, when it is revealed, we shall be like him and we shall see the father as he is. All those who have this hope will make themselves pure, as God is pure.
Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a: Here Jesus stresses the qualities he wishes to see in his disciples, qualities we see exemplified in the lives of the saints. Jesus went up to a mountain and seated there he taught his disciples. He told them that those who are poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven; those who mourn will be comforted; those who are meek will inherit the land; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied; those who are merciful will be shown mercy; those who are pure of heart will see God; those who labour for peace will be called children of God; the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; the disciples will have a great reward in heaven if they are insulted and persecuted because they are working for the Lord.
The saints have played a central role in the growth and development of the Christian faith. They were people who dared live the life of a Christian. Therefore, it is important that the story of their deeds be kept live in the Christian community. However, wrongly understood, devotion to the saints becomes a hindrance rather than a help. It’s easy to turn the saints into mere objects of cult, or to use them simply s a means of obtaining favours.
Of course, the saints can win favours for us. But we must get our priorities right. They should first serve as models for us in our following of Christ. They should not be used to provide us with shortcuts and ways of evading the hard slog and the narrow road. The Church sets them up as models precisely because they imitated Christ. They are reminders to us of what life is about. They encourage us. They inspire us. And yes, they intercede for us, so that we may be bolder in walking the path of the Gospel.
All three readings today speak of the pure in heart. They tell us quite convincingly that those who are pure will see God. The pure will become like God. They will be in the presence of God. Today, the church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. We are reminded of the many pure people who have lived very saintly lives, but may not have had the opportunity to be officially canonized by the Church. One must be also realistic that it is impossible to canonize every saintly person, also because of the financial aspects that are involved in this. So, without going into these aspects, we must acknowledge however that there are many saintly persons who have lived and are living on this earth. These pure people are those who live a life of sacrifice just as Jesus has lived his life. Their life purpose is so different. They are not so much bothered about their welfare, their desires, their satisfactions, their dreams and the like. If at all they dream, they dream of reaching out to as many needy people as they can. They are like the name of the battery “Eveready.” They are ever ready to do good.
I once knew a man, quite an amazing person, whose life was simple, uneventful and very ordinary. He is dead now. Humanly speaking, he achieved little in life. An ordinary working-class. He was one of a thousand carpenters. He was never noted for any particularly worldly talent. He remained always in the background. His funeral was a simply one. He had no education in the worldly sense, yet he was a perfect man. He had no particular skill except that of knowing the time to speak and the time to be silent, the time to help and the time to keep away. We all just took him for granted, so much so that he was never really missed until he died. It was lovely to discover the simplicity in a world which is far from simple. He never went to watch the TV, listen to the radio, or purchase a magazine. No high position, no big money, no large possessions. For him the simple, small things in life assumed an immense importance.
It was a rare sight. Who says there are no saints today? Actually, we are surrounded by Saints. In order to recognize these saints, we have to free ourselves from all our evil tendencies and sinfulness. Then, many of these saints appear before us. They challenge us to live a life of fullness and not filling ourselves with things unnecessary. A life of fullness will quite often be empty of possessions, but it will be one filled with Joy, purity, love, sacrifice, compassion, sharing, care and forgiveness. This solemnity also reminds us that although our goal need not be labelled as “to be a saint,” but rather we are called to live saintly and pure lives. We need to happily embark on this journey of saintliness. Saintliness is definitely not a display of our good actions to everyone. It is an inward journey, which no one notices, but it takes deep roots in God, so that the wind and rain came, but the person did not fall. The person remained rooted in God. This person is a saint.