FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Solemnity of All Saints
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 | Psalm 24:1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6 | 1 John 3:1-3 | Matthew 5:1-12A
Every baptized Christian is called to be holy. This understanding is known as the universal call to holiness. Today we celebrate All Saints Day. This solemnity calls us to turn our gaze toward heaven and remember that we are all called to be saints. In doing this, we look at all the great saints of our faith for inspiration and guidance.
I have a friend who in a time of this pandemic lost his job, a sizable fortune, and his beautiful home. To add to his sorrow, his wife left him for someone else; yet he tenaciously held to his faith – the only thing he had left. One day when he was out walking in search of a job, he stopped to watch some men who were doing stonework on a large church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. 'Where are you going to put that?' he asked. The workman said, 'Do you see that little opening up there in the belfry? Well, I AM SHAPING THIS STONE DOWN HERE SO THAT IT WILL FIT IN UP THERE.' Tears filled my friend's eyes as he walked away, for the Lord had spoken to him through that laborer whose words gave new meaning to his troubled situation.
Our First Reading teaches us how people become saints. John tells us in the Book of Revelation what he saw and how beautiful Heaven will be. His visions of a great multitude from every nation, race, people and tongue standing before the Jesus all wearing white and holding palm branches which are all symbols of joy and victory. Saints, therefore, are those who have finished the race and now rejoice in God’s presence. Throughout history, saints endured so many struggles, setbacks, persecutions, and humiliations, but let us ask — were they miserable people? No way! Holiness is meant to be tested and proven in life. Holy people are as much survivors as they are believers. The palpable joy of the saints lie in their conviction that no matter what trials or tribulations we may be called to go through, the hand of God will be with us and sustain us.
When the great painter Fernando Amorsolo was a young boy he decided to draw a picture of his brother, Alejandro. He got out bottles of ink and succeeded in making a complete mess. When his mother, Bonifacia got home she said, “What a beautiful picture,” and kissed him. Later in life he said, “That kiss made me a painter.”
On this day, the Church honors not only the towering figures like Sts. Peter and Paul, Augustine, Francis and Clare of Assisi, John Paul II and Teresa of Calcutta, but also the humble saints as well, those whose names are known to few or to none: the grandparents and ancestors, the friends and teachers who lived their faith to the full and inspired faith in others. This is a day to celebrate them all. The first epistle of John highlights the destiny of being children of God — to be considered saints. I personally know of people who I consider saints. These are ordinary people who do things with extraordinary love; in doing so, their lives mirror God’s love to others. I admire them and are proud to call them my friends. Through their friendship, I feel the love of Jesus. When I’m with them, I know that I am among God’s children.
One Day Mother Teresa took a woman off the streets in Calcutta. She had sores infested with bugs. Mother Teresa cleaned and dressed her sores while the woman never stopped shrieking and even using swear words and insults. Finally, the woman asked Mother Teresa, "Sister, why do you do this? Not everyone behaves like you. Who taught you?" Mother Teresa replied, "My God taught me." The woman said she wanted to know her God. Mother Teresa kissed her on the forehead and said, "You know my God. My God is called love."
The Gospel tells us who are considered saints. What does it mean to be holy? How can one live a holy life? In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us that in order to be holy, we must go beyond the minimum. He has come to teach us how to go beyond the minimum requirements of the Law and to respond to others with love. True love of God and neighbor begins in the heart and has its value from this interior disposition. Jesus wants us to be "mabuti" (hesed) and not merely "mabait" (parush). If one does not physically attack or injure his neighbor, he or she is "mabait". If one works to promote peace and reconciliation, he or she is "mabuti”. If a husband does not cheat on his wife, he is "mabait". If a husband makes an effort to say, “I love you,” or ask, “How are you today?”, he is "mabuti." When we let our children get away with cussing or saying bad words because we don't want to hurt them, we are parents who are "mabait." If we discipline them and make them realize the seriousness of their deed, we are parents who are "mabuti." Jesus is looking for something far deeper than legal observances. He wants us to be motivated by love, to live loving lives, to care and to unselfishly give of ourselves to others and to our Father in heaven. This is the path to holiness. Our Lord points out that obeying the "letter of the Law” is a matter of physical action, whereas obeying the “spirit of the Law” requires more than just outward actions. Ang nagbabait-baitan, mapupunta sa langit-langitan. Fake saints are bound to counterfeit heaven. Do we simply obey rules, or do we choose to live in love and concern for others? The Church reminds us today that our history is full of people who lived the beatitudes. They are the flesh-and-blood examples that being "mabuti" actually do produce incomparable joy in life.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum