Solemnity of All Saints: A, B, C
Rev 7:2-4, 9-14; 1Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12a
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Today the universal Church celebrates the solemnity of all saints. With times past, the Church has recognized the holiness of certain men and women and has granted them the title of saints. There are certain saints who had once led sinful life and failures as we do, before they made their decision to obey God’s commandments and follow the way of the Gospel.
There should be billions of saints of God in heaven. In their entire life, they did not do anything exceptional, except their day-to-day ordinary things for the love of God. As recorded in the reading from the book of Revelation, saint John in his vision saw before him 144,000 those sealed (Rev 7:4), those new Israelites, those faithful Christians of Christ. The number 144, 000 is a symbolic number, fully high, symbolizing those who were saved. Saint John also saw a multitude of people: robed in white, carrying those branches (Rev 7:9). These are martyrs coming from all nations and all walks of life in society. The reason why today the Church instituted the feast of all Saints is to celebrate all saints, including anonymous saints, including our ancestors and relatives.
The liturgy of the word of the solemnity of all Saints reminds us that every Christian on earth must face certain trials, temptations, and sufferings. In addition, every Christian, in fact everyone wants to be happy. Therefore, happiness is something we all want and look for. Yet we would be surprised and stunned when hearing that those who are blessed or happy in today’s Gospel (Mt 5:1-12) are those whom people would consider unhappy, miserable and pitiful. They are those who are poor in spirit, even though they are well to do and materially rich. To be poor in spirit means to detach from material goods, and to trust in God. To live the spirit of poverty is not to depend on material things, but trust in God’s power.
They are also the sorrowful, the meek, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for holiness, those who are persecuted for justice’s sake. To live the Beatitudes is to become perfect and holy and to attain true happiness. There are saints considered as exceptional individuals, set apart from the common people because they had history and achievement left behind. Many other saints were like us, carrying within themselves weakness and failures. In addition, they have tried to keep God’s commandments, the way of the gospel and the Beatitudes.
The lives of saints are role models for us to see where the way of holiness and justice are, where the destiny of life is. We need examples of virtues to follow. That is the reason why the Church canonized saints. Unfortunately, in our times and our society, there is lack of role models to follow. We can see few people dare to go against the societal trend. The trend of society is individual freedom from attachments to family and religion. People are afraid of doing something good and right according to the call of conscience and the conviction of religion, afraid of losing friends and jobs.
In that kind of culture, even parents do not want to remind their grandchildren of what is right, lest they might be labeled as conservative or their parents are not pleased.
One of the reasons that youth of our time are vulnerable to law breaking and demoralization is because they do not find role models, or persons of moral principles in the neighborhood and in the church and in society to look up to. On the contrary, when young people see people of high prestige in the community, people of high position in society and in the church who are also involved in dope and corruption, how can they want to rise? To enter their children’s rooms, parents will see what their children are hanging on the wall. Who are their children’s role models? What are they hanging on the wall? Are they pictures of saints or pictures of corrupt individuals? Thus in the family or in the community, there are a need for someone to be a pillar of the family or society for young people to lean on for maintaining their faith identity.
If becoming a saint is like the way of Saint Teresa of the child Jesus, then everyone can become a saint. Saint Teresa did not do anything exceptional. She just did ordinary daily works in an exceptional way. Men and women, old and young people, even children can do ordinary daily works in the family, in their office and factory in an exceptional way for the glory of God, in union with the work of Jesus. Anyone can offer to God their crosses of sickness and suffering in body, soul and spirit for the love of God in atonement for our sins and the sins of the world.
Today we ask all saints, especially the saints we honor in a special way to intercede for us before God. When we honor the saints, we glorify God for his power and grace has done wonders in them. With their intercessions, we ask God to touch our lives and spirit and transform our lives.
A prayer for being included in the list of the chosen:
Oh, Lord our God!
You are the glory of your saints
and the hope of the Christians.
Grant that we may realize that
happiness of the Christian is not in this life
but found in the next life.
Teach me to store treasures in heaven.
We ask you to be our hope in this life
and our glory in the life to come. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong