A renewal of our longing to share in the citizenship of Heaven
THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS, 1ST NOVEMBER 2020
Readings: Rev. 7:2-4.9-14, 1John 3:1-3, Matt. 5:1-12
Rev. Fr. John-Mary Ntol Atep
Dear friends in Christ, Happy Solemnity of All Saints! Happy New Month of November and may our Heavenly Father, through His Glorious Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit bless you, protect you and provide for you all the days of your life. Amen.
Our liturgy today is about the reality of Heaven and its citizens – the saints. We are here to renew our longing to share in the citizenship of heaven. We celebrate who we are called to be and we are using this opportunity to remind ourselves that we should hasten to meet them as they await us. There is only one ambition in life that is harmless. The desire to become a saint, the longing to meet the saints, the yearning to glory in the company of the Saints. The enemies of our vocation to sainthood are indifference and negligence. Our readings are about a confirmation of what we profess as believers “I believe in the …Communion of Saints…” So, let us be open to the saints for their blessings and graces.
“Thomas Merton was one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the twentieth century. Shortly after he was converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Merton was walking down the streets of New York with a friend. A Jew, and he asked Thomas what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. ‘I don’t know.’ Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. The friend stopped him in his tracks. ‘What you should say,’ he told him, ‘is that you want to be a saint!’ Merton was dumbfounded. ‘How do you expect me to be a saint?’ Merton asked him. Lax said: ‘All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you consent to let him do it? All you have is to desire it.’”
We thank God for our celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints. All Saints, meaning both those canonised and those unknown to us. There are many reasons for our celebration today especially for the singular reason that the Saints have messages for us.
First, the Saints give us a sense of direction. They remind us of our origin, identity and destiny. We live today with a lot of confused ideologies and maxims. One would have thought that with our growing affluence, advancement in technology and science, in medicine and increase in lifespan; human beings would find life meaningful. But the case is the reverse and we have almost reduced life to working hard, killing and destroying ourselves in order to attain power and relevance, making money so that one can enjoy the pleasure of life. But the saints through the second reading give us a very clear picture of our origin, identity and destiny. It says: “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children (1John 3:1-2).
The Saints say, because we are God’s children, our lives are purpose driven and they were created by God and destined to end with and in Him. The number of those to end with and in God is beyond our understanding. Therefore, the first reading echoes the “huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language … dressed in white robes and holding palms” in our hands, prostrating, worshipping God, praising and thanking Him. Indeed, this call to share in the joy of the countless saints is given to us all. We might not be officially canonized by the Church but there are countless saints who have already attained their goal and destiny in heaven. We have Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and Paul. The next is you and me.
All the Saints – angels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, encourage us to renew our zeal for our ultimate assignment in life. What is our ultimate assignment in life? It is the universal call to holiness or sainthood. Living a life of holiness means living according to the “Be Attitudes” of the gospel of Matthew. It means living a life of total dependence on God, mercy, purity, peace-making, hunger and thirst for righteousness and accepting persecutions with the eyes of God. There are those who argue that it is not possible to be holy in our turbulent and difficult world. But Jesus insists “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). And interestingly C.S. Lewis simplifies the possibility of attaining holiness as the saints have done by saying “God is easy to please but hard to satisfy.”
Mother Angelica says, “Where most men work for degrees after their names, we work for one before our names: ‘St.’ It’s a more difficult degree to attain. It takes a lifetime, and you don’t get your diploma until you are dead.” The fundamental question is: can one become a saint in our world that is driven by multiple temptations? The answer is a resounding yes!
Reflective questions for our spiritual awakening
- Who is your patron saint? What do you know about him or her?
- How prepared are you to meet the saints who await us?
- When last did you seek the intercession of the saints?
- When last did you pray a novena in honour of the saints?
- You have a Bible, very good! How about a book on lives of the Saints?