Homily for the Feast of All Saints
Theme: WHO ARE THE SAINTS?
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Friday November 1 2019
Feast of All Saints
* Rev 7 : 2 – 14, 1 Jn 3 : 1 – 3, Matt 5 : 1 – 12.
The celebration of the feast of All Saints is the most positive and most universal celebration done by the Roman Catholic Church. It is the celebration of the triumph of our ancestors in faith ( the Church triumphant). It is different from ancestral worship as found in ATR. For example, when we celebrate our ancestors who died 100 years ago and kill cows for them with the belief that they should eat, rest in peace and not disturb the peace and progress of the living, it is ancestral worship – dividends from a primitive materialism and consumerist worldview. But when we remember our dead heroes and celebrate their life and death or even ask God for mercy in case they are not yet at peace, we are doing a salutary Christian practice with a biblical background, 2 Macc 12 : 45.
Today’s celebration smacks of some degree of eschatological positivity. It is based on the belief that our faithful departed have made it into heaven basing on the merits of what Jesus Christ has done. Remember what happened on the day Jesus Christ died. The scriptures recorded that ‘Tombs opened and the bodies of many holy people rose from the dead’, Matt 27 : 52. He descended into hell ( hades) and took all of them away. He even told the repentant armed robber near his cross that ‘this night you will be with me in paradise’, Lk 23 : 43.
B. WHO ARE THE SAINTS?
We hear in today’s 1st reading, Rev 7 : 2 – 14, that servants of God were sealed with the mark of salvation on their foreheads. The 1st batch was 144,000 while the 2nd batch was ‘a huge number impossible to count’. The vision/ dream of John reads that ‘these people clothed in white robes are people who have come out of the great tribulation ( on earth) and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb’. If it were not a dream, I would have asked John how blood would be used to wash a robe to become white? But I think the theological message is crystal clear – what Jesus has done for us on Calvary, by making salvation become easy. He has provided for us ( through his Church), a fountain of purification – a ministry of reconciliation, so to speak, 2 Cor 5 : 18, so that saints can now be called ‘repentant sinners’ and not merely the innocent virgins. There are therefore about 3 classes of saints in heaven acc;
1. Those who have survived trials and temptations here on earth ; the poor in spirit, those who mourn and the meek.
2. Those who have perfected in the art of purification and reconciliation with God ; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are pure in heart and the merciful. The basic requirement in this class is learning how to forgive others. That is why Christ said : ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy’.
3. The final class which the saints must pass through is the class of those who have acquired the skills for conflict resolution. Christ said : ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God’. Also in this group are the ones who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness and yet they remain peaceful.
The secret of sanctity is constant repentance and purification. The prophet Malachi succinctly captures this theology as far back as 500 years before Christ when he wrote : ‘And he shall purify the sons of Levi ( the priestly people) and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will bring their offering in righteousness’, Mal 3 : 5.
A saint is therefore a repentant sinner – someone who has the attitude of being poor in spirit, ie someone who is always in need of the grace of salvation. All the beatitudes are attitudes of saintliness ; (i) Humility/devotion to prayer, (ii) Calmness/ depending on God for consolation, (iii) Gentleness/ patience in our dealings with people, (iv) Sincerity/ hungering for righteousness, (v) Forgiveness/ being merciful with our offenders, (vi) Holiness/ maintaining our purity through regular confessions backed by sincere repentance, (vii) Peacefulness/ attitude of reconciliation with neighbour, (viii) Martyrdom/ keeping our faith till the end even in the midst of persecution.
Saints are those who struggle for perfection till the end. As we celebrate today with the amazing list of a galaxy of saints, official and unofficial, let us remind ourselves what they did and what they did not do – they washed themselves in the blood of the lamb and as children God did not live a life of wickedness. Let us desire to see Jesus as Zacheus did and acquire gradually the saintly disposition that come from daily communion with him.
Happy saints’ day beloved friends!