Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. Hidden within the mystery we celebrate today is a revelation of great importance and value.
In today’s first reading St. John says “After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before
the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.” This is similar to our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, which we commemorate on Palm Sunday. This time it is not just the Jews; there are people from all nations. So many that they are beyond counting – more numerous than the Saints recognized by the church. They cry out “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb.” They acknowledge that they have been “saved”. In his writings the audience is a church under persecution. What did the word “saved” mean in that context? “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” It meant they had remained faithful despite trying circumstances.
The “saints” attribute their salvation to two factors. The first is the blood of the Lamb. Even though the Lamb gave His blood to save us, the saints too had to do something. They had to wash their robes in the blood. The second was God, whom they saw as seated on the throne. Even though they went through “great distress”, they see God as sovereign over their circumstances. This is an attitude we saw in our Lord Jesus in the court of Pontius Pilate. He accepted the cross from the hands of His Father. Not from Pilate nor from the Jews. For the saints, the blood of the Lamb dealt with issues of the past, while God’s sovereignty dealt with the issues of the present and the future.
Today’s Gospel proclamation is from our Lord’s famous sermon on the mount – the beatitudes. He picks certain types of people and calls them “Blessed”. I believe the church is trying to tell us that the beatitudes describe the way that the saints lived during their life on earth.
If we take a rational look at the type of people that the beatitudes extol, they do not seem blessed.
For example, being poor is often seen as a curse. When we are mourning, it means that something unfortunate has happened to us. Hungering for righteousness means that we are struggling with the ruling powers. Being insulted and persecuted is not something we generally look forward to.
Psalm 84:5-6 says “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.” These words reveal that there are some people, who when they walk through distress are able to convert it in to a blessing. These people are those who seek the Lord and whose strength come from him.
In the Acts of the Apostles we see St. Peter and St. John meeting a lame beggar. St. Peter says, “silver or gold have I none, but what I do have I give you”. Their lack of silver and gold opened the doors to the resources of heaven. The saints were those who sought the face of God through mountain-moving-faith and God turned their curses into blessings.
In today’s second reading St. John tells us “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” St. John is implying that we too are called to be counted among the multitude that were present in the throne room, described in the first reading.
The saints play an important role in our lives. We look up to them for they are holy men and women. Often we assume that God visited them and raised them to sainthood because they were holy men and women. But as we read their writings and learn about their life stories, we discover that they too had fears, doubts, struggles, and battles with their nature. Sometimes, they even struggled with doubts whether God existed or not. How did these men and women become saints? In their struggles and in their brokenness, they learnt to seek God.
Today the church presents them as models we can look up to, so that we too can learn the principles behind how God works through our brokenness to lift us to Himself.
Prayer: Abba Father, may we imitate the saints in dealing with our trials under your sovereignty. Amen.
Source : On our Knees publication