Homily for the Feast of All Saints Year A
Theme: THE SAINTS, ASSURANCE OF OUR HOPE OF HEAVEN
By: Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara
Homily for Sunday November 1 2020
(REV.7:2-4,9-14, 1 JN 3:1-3, MAT5:1-12}
A common commemoration of the saints, especially the martyrs, appeared in various areas throughout the Church after the legalization of Christianity in AD 313. The primary reason for establishing a common feast day was the desire to honor the great number of Christians martyred during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). Both St. Ephrem (d. 373) and St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) attest to this feast day in their preaching. The earliest observance of the holiday was recorded in the early fourth century. But the feast was only fully established in the early seventh century under Pope Boniface IV (608-615), who consecrated Rome’s Pantheon to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in AD 609. Pope Gregory IV (828-844), made All Saints’ a holy day in the mid-eighth century and moved it to November 1.
All baptized Christians who have died and are now with God in glory are considered saints. All Saints Day is intended to honor the memory of countless unknown and uncanonized saints who have no feast days. Today we thank God for giving ordinary men and women a share in His holiness and Heavenly glory as a reward for their Faith. This feast is observed to teach us to honor the saints, both by imitating their lives and by seeking their intercession for us before Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
The saints are our role models. They teach us by their lives that Christ’s holy life of love, mercy and unconditional forgiveness can, with the grace of God, be lived by ordinary people from all walks of life and at all times. They are also our Heavenly mediators who intercede for us before Jesus, the only mediator between God and us. (Jer 15:1, Rev 8:3-4,). They are the instruments that God uses to work miracles at present, just as He used the staff of Moses, the bones of the prophet Elisha (2Kgs 13:21), the towel of Paul (Acts 19:12) and the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15) to work miracles.
We need to accept the challenge to become saints. Jesus exhorts us in the beatitudes today on the keys to be saints”. St. Augustine asked: “If he and she can become saints, why can’t I?”. We all can become saints by choosing well by doing good and avoiding evil, by choosing to follow Christ, all the way to heaven.
Of course, we know that these saints were human like us and had their diversity and still God used them. It would be very difficult to find one pattern of holiness, one way of following Christ. Think of Abraham and his struggles, Moses the murderer and his speech impediment. There is Peter, the hard-nosed and no-nonsense fisherman and there is St. Mary Magdalene an adulterer. There is Thomas Aquinas, the towering intellectual, and John Vianney, who barely made it through the seminary. There is Vincent de Paul, a saint in the city, and there is Antony who found sanctity in the harshness and loneliness of the desert. There is Joan of Arc, leading armies into war, and there is Francis of Assisi, the peacenik who would never hurt an animal. There is the grave and serious Jerome, and there is Philip Neri, whose spirituality was based on laughter and humour. How do we explain this diversity? “In my father’s house there are many mansions there”. If they could make it, you can!
If someone were to ask why do we seek the intercession of the saints, then we can indeed explain it in this way, that we are asking these wonderful, pious and faithful predecessors of ours to pray for us, just like how we ask our friends and one another to pray for us and for them. If we can ask those who are still in this world to pray for us, then why can’t and shouldn’t we ask those whose lives have been deemed and considered holy and pious that they are now standing in the glorious presence of God? But more importantly if they could make it, you can!
Happy feast day!
-Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara