On this feast day, we are challenged to remember that all of us are called to be holy as we reflect on the life of the great heroes of our faith.FR. Dumlesi Tor
(Rev 7:2-3,9-14; 1Jn 3:1-3; Matt 5:1-12)
A child was walking through a cemetery one day with his grandpa. Puzzled by the gravestones he asked his grandpa. His grandpa said, “These people were living in those houses. Then God called them and now they’re living in God’s house.” The boy said, “And this is where they left their clothes.” What better way could we explain passing from this life to the next?
Today, we celebrate these men and women who were living in this mortal house but have been called by God to His immortal house in heaven. The feast of All Saints is also called the feast of All Hallowed or all holy people. The word “Hallowed” comes from the word “Holy” which means “to separate”. The ancestry of the word can be traced back to an ancient word which means “to cut”. To be holy, then, is to be cut above the norm, superior, extraordinary.
On this feast day, we are challenged to remember that all of us are called to be holy as we reflect on the life of the great heroes of our faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All called to holiness: Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (CCC 2013). The celebration of today arouses in us a longing to enjoy the company of the saints. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of the patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles and the choirs of angels.
The Church’s experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The Saints’ biographies describe men and women who, docile to the divine plan, sometimes faced unspeakable trials and suffering, persecution and martyrdom. They persevered in their commitment: “they… have come out of the great tribulation”, as the first reading says, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. And now marked with the seal, their names are written in the book of life (cf. Rev 20: 12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place.
The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him. Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy (cf. Isa 6: 3). In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I Jn 3: 1).
This great solemnity calls us in a particular way to turn our gaze toward heaven and remember that we are all called to be saints. Holiness is not about what you do but with how much love you do it. Holiness is really the perfection of faith, hope, and sharing in God’s very nature, which is love (I John 4:8). We are talking about a special kind of love here, the love that gives freely of itself to another, that even lays down its own priorities, interests, and very life, for another.
Hence, in the today’s gospel, Jesus did not begin this important sermon with a negative criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. He began with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the believer. The Pharisees taught that holiness was an external thing, a matter of obeying rules and regulations. Righteousness could be measured by praying, giving, fasting, etc. In the Beatitudes and the pictures of the believer, Jesus described Christian character that flowed from within.
With the beatitude, Jesus begins a beautiful instruction on how to live the life of a saint. As Pope Benedict says, the beatitudes is a portrait of what all of us should aspire to. Saints are the people who knew they were spiritually poor. They knew that they are sinners and they have proved that any sinner can be a saint. Since God is pure, in order to see him we must, like the saints, have clean hands and pure heart.
A call to sainthood does not mean you should fly from the world, but it means that you should sanctify the world by your life of authentic Christian witnessing. What does it take to become a saint? As Robert Lax will say, “All that is necessary to become a saint is to want to become one”. What we celebrate today is our hope of becoming saints because they are the source of challenge and encouragement to us. If they can, we can.
Happy feast day!
Fr Dumlesi Tor