Summary: We must be changed, changed into images of Our Lord and Our Lady by the grace of God given to us in the sacraments.
All Saints Day 2017
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!"
I hope you’ll pardon me for simply reading a mere snippet from our New Testament lesson today, but that’s an extraordinary scene. So let me ask please for a show of hands. How many of you look forward to participating in this scene described in St. John’s Apocalypse? (Allow hands) I think that’s pretty much everybody here. But just imagine it. A crowd well beyond the capacity of the number crunchers at CNN or MSNBC. Nobody could ever number it–millions, no billions line the streets of heaven waving palm branches like the crowd on that first Palm Sunday. But unlike the fickle inhabitants of that earthly Jerusalem, all of us will be the faithful ones, acclaiming our Savior, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe we celebrated just last Sunday. We will be clothed in our white robes, made innocent again just as we were on the days of our Baptism. And we will forever sing praise to the one who brings salvation, the Father who sent the Son, the precious Lamb slain for our sins, and the Holy Spirit who fills us with grace and makes us worthy to sing that never-ending hymn.
Every one of us, and every human being on earth, is called to be a saint. That has a very special meaning. We are called to be holy, set apart for God’s service. We are not called to just be “nice.” We are not called to be popular. We are not called to be admired. We are not called to be famous. Nor are called to be merely adequate, to merely avoid sin. We are called to be holy, as Our Lord and the Blessed Mother are holy.
What that means is laid out in Our Lord’s words in the Holy Gospel. Jesus and Mary were holy because they were poor in spirit. They put no possession, no honor, no allegiance between themselves and accepting God’s will. We must imitate them in that poverty. They were holy because they were meek. Self-aggrandizement was beyond their knowledge. They lived lives of service to us, and they continue that existence in heaven. They were holy because they mourned over things that are worth mourning–the injustice of the “in class” to the poor, the sinfulness of humanity. We must imitate them as we mourn and work to alleviate poverty, to protect human life, to value human dignity.
They were holy, and we will be holy, by practicing compassion. Jesus healed and strengthened those outcast from society–lepers, the possessed, the disabled. We, too, are called to compassion. Their purity was part and parcel of their holiness. So, too, we will be holy if we rise above our animal appetites and respect the integrity of all our relationships. Jesus and Mary were peacemakers, especially when they showed respect for their enemies–Roman centurions, synagogue leaders, even Pharisees. And, of course, when Our Lord was tried by a kangaroo court, sentenced unjustly to execution, and hounded through the streets until crucified on Calvary, there Mary was with Him, persecuted, suffering, but blessed that the two of them were winning our salvation. We, too, must be ready and willing to suffer for our faith, usually in pretty pedestrian ways.
How can we weak humans ever aspire to that kind of holiness? We must be changed, changed into images of Our Lord and Our Lady by the grace of God given to us in the sacraments. And we pray for ourselves and our companions in this journey toward holiness, as the myriads of saints in heaven do so constantly. Thus we have hope that we will someday all join in that awesome sevenfold hymn: “Benediction and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving, honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever, Amen.”