All Saints Day (Fr. Francis)
I love saints. They are the spiritual superheroes of our church. The glorious communion of saints provides us with access to a massive list of prayer partners who pray with us and pray for us. The list includes the official “greats” of our church history. It also includes family and friends whose holiness and love directly touched and enriched our lives. We all have our favorite saints we relate to and who inspire us.
I need these heavenly models of holiness. I also need earthly models of holiness. Saints are all around us, women and men whose generous spirit reflects the Gospel call to love and serve God and others. Some do it by making the ordinary holy through a spirit of simplicity and humility. Some do it by showing extraordinary courage in sickness and adversity. Some do it by railing against injustice and working to bring equality and dignity to all.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of all Saints, saints who are known and unknown, saints who are canonized and not yet canonized.
What does it mean to be a holy person, a saint? From a biblical perspective, something is holy when it is set apart for God and God’s purposes. So, an animal to be sacrificed to the Lord is holy because it is designated for this special function. In Exodus 19, God set apart the Israelites as his own “treasured possession” (19:5). They would be a “holy nation” (19:6) through which God would make himself known to the world. In the New Testament, believers in Jesus Christ are referred to as “saints” or “holy people” because they have inherited Israel’s divinely conferred status as people set apart by God for him and for his saving purposes.
If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are a saint. You are a holy person. This does not necessarily say anything about your worthiness to receive this title or your exemplary lifestyle, however. I wouldn’t recommend that you go around putting “Saint” in front of your name. Rather, you are a saint because God has chosen you to belong to him and his people. He has set you apart so that you might participate in his redeeming work in the world.
Remember, you are not a solo saint. There is no such thing from a biblical perspective. Rather, as a saint, you have been joined to the family of all saints, including those who live around the world and those who have gone to be with the Lord. Therefore, on All Saints Day, it is a perfect time to remember that God has made you special for him and his purposes, and that he has joined you into the eternal, worldwide fellowship of all his saints. Moreover, it’s a good day to take seriously the fact that God wants to make himself known in this world through you as a member of the family of all saints.
There are mainly three hidden calls behind it. Firstly, it a call to thank the Lord for the glory he has bestowed on the saints and to join in their ecstasy. Secondly it is a call of encouragement to follow Christ. Thirdly it is a call to become Saints.
Great saints are honored not because they did great things but because the smallest things in an extraordinary manner. The thought stuck St, Ignatius of Loyola which later inspired him to be so was “If the Saints could do so, Why not I”. Yes, I can surely become a saint. Saint Alphonsus Ligourie says, “He who does not cherish a desire to achieve sanctity, may be Christian, but not a good Christian”. Saint Augustine says, “It is pleasant to see the saints, to be with the saints and to be a saint”, Yes, my dear friends, a saintly figure according to Saint Chrysostom is like a mirror which will behold our blemishes and disfigures our souls. Today as we look at the saints whom we like the most are like mirrors who try to remove our blemishes, and renew our souls.
The most profound interpretation of the word of God comes from the lives of the Saints who allowed them to be shaped by the word of God by listening, reflecting and meditating the word of God. St. Anthony the Abbot was moved by the words, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and distribute to the poor”. St Basil says, the distinctive mark of faith is the unhesitating certainty that the words inspired by God are really true”. St Francis Assisi, upon hearing the words, “Do not carry gold, silver, no purse, no money, nor carry bread, staff for the journey…” cried out, “This is what I ask for, this is I long to do with all my heart”. St Dominic “everywhere showed himself to be a man of the Gospel in word as in deed”.
Every Saint is like a ray of light streaming forth from the word of God: we can think of Ignatius of Loyola in his search for truth and in his discernment of spirits, Don Bosco in his passion for the education for the young, Theresa of Avila constantly using biblical images to express her mystical experiences, Theresa of Child Jesus, in her discovery that love is her personal vocation, by pouring over the Scriptures especially I Corinthians Ch.13., St. John Maria Vianney in his awareness of the grandeur of the priesthood as a gift and task, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, the missionary of God’s charity for the poor, the martyrs of Nazism represented by Edith Stein, a Carmelite nun, St. Alphonsa, the first canonized saint born in India her joyful acceptance of suffering inspired by the word of God, “unless a grain of wheat falls and dies… (Jn 12:20).
Through the intercession of the saints, let us ask the Lord that our own lives may be “that good soil” in which the divine sower plants the seed so that it may bear fruits of holiness, hundredfold (Mk 4:20). Today try to recite any of the mantras. “To God be glory, to my neighbor happiness and to me hardships”. (Ref: Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “Verbum Domini”, Pope Benedict XVI, pages 86-90)
Fr. A. Francis HGN