Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a great feast day of the entire Universal Church, and not just of the Church which is in this world, but also together with the entire Church of the heavenly realm, as we celebrate today the feast and solemnity of All Saints, rejoicing with all creation, for the gift of the saints, who were once of mankind, but have been raised to the glory of the Altar and had been deemed by the Church as worthy of heaven by the virtue of their life and works.
This day marks the very important concept in our Faith, that is of the belief in saints and also to that extent, the blesseds or the Beati, who were also deemed worthy of praise and veneration, due to their actions in life, and in how they have faithfully lived their life in accordance with the ways and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in how they have dedicated their lives in service both to God and to their fellow men.
Then, in order to start, we have to understand who are saints in the first place and why they were so special, and how they can inspire us all in our own lives and drive towards salvation in God. Saints were also once living and walking in this world just like us, and they were also once sinners like us. Some saints were even once great sinners, who committed even abominable acts in the sight of God, when they were still alive.
Some saints were once murderers, and some were heretics and rebels against the orthodox teachings of the faith, and yet some were also fornicators and those who gave in to the pleasures of the flesh and the temptations of the world. St. Augustine of Hippo, the renowned Doctor of the Church and great saint is a traditional example of this, as well as St. Paul the Apostle, the great Apostle to the Gentiles and the one who wrote the many letters that today form the majority of our New Testament in the Scripture.
St. Augustine of Hippo was the son of another well-known saint, St. Monica, who was a devout Christian and had hoped that her son would be one too. She brought him up in the Faith with zeal and love, only to be greatly disappointed when he grew up to be a fornicator and a heretic, following the heresy of Manichaeanism, and indulging in various pleasures of the flesh and the world with his friends and companies.
Meanwhile, we know that St. Paul the Apostle was once Saul, the great scourge and enemy of the Church and the faithful, who hunted down many of the faithful, persecuted many of the saints and martyrs of the early Church, destroyed many of the communities of the faithful, and were once a bitter and zealous enemy of Christ. He went to Damascus with the evil intent of bringing the faithful who lived and hid there to the justice of the Pharisees and the chief priests.
And yet, what differentiated them from those who sin and was lost to us into eternal damnation? It is because they did not remain forever in their sins and in their sinful state, and instead, they sought complete change and turnaround in their own lives. They abandoned what were wicked and evil in their lives, casting out wickedness from their actions and deeds, and they embraced the mercy and love of God, taking up instead the armour of God, that is faith, hope, love and justice.
St. Augustine of Hippo was converted to the truth through both the endless intercession and prayer by his mother, St. Monica, who ceaselessly prayed for him and his soul, and he changed his ways, finding eventually the Lord his God, abandoning all of his past wickedness and since then, walked faithfully in the Lord, becoming among the greatest of the saints of Christendom, through his acts and works.
Saul as we know, was changed since he encountered our Lord Jesus personally, on that fateful day, on the way to the city of Damascus. He was blinded and was helpless, but the Lord through Ananias, His servant, he was healed and made wholesome once again. He was baptised and regained his old strength, but instead of resuming his old ways of hunting and persecuting the faithful, he made a turnaround and indeed, he from then on preached the Good News of God.
Thus, as we can see from their examples, saints does not have to be perfect people. Indeed, they were just as imperfect as we are, and they were sinners as we are. What matters is however that, they did not remain in their sinfulness and neither did they remain steadfast in their rebellion against the will of God. They changed their ways and had a turnaround in their lives, and therefore, they are converted to the cause of the Lord, and through their new lives, they gained justification in their faith and actions.
Some saints and blesseds were indeed already holy for most of their lives, and they were exemplary throughout the life they led, and in all of their actions. Some of these saints even died young, at a teenage or young adult age. This is in fact God’s way to preserve their saintliness and holiness, and to prevent them from falling into sin as they progressed further in life.
St. John Bosco or John de Bosco, St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Bernadette Soubirous and many other saints who died young, because of sickness and other reasons, showed great holiness and piety since youth, and because of that, as the Lord Himself had said through His prophets and messengers, that He would rather that they be brought to His presence early and in their youth, rather than to allow the corruptions of the world and the temptations of Satan to get into them.
And closer to our era, we also know of the deeds of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the simple Albanian woman who dedicated herself to the service of the Lord and of her fellow men, by becoming, in her own words, as the ‘pencil in the hand of God’, and she became a beacon of faith and hope in many of those who suffered at the hands of the world, the dejected, the ostracised, the poorest and the weakest in the society.
We also know of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the saint of the Holocaust, who gave up his own life in exchange for another prisoner, who was condemned to death while trying to escape from the persecution of NAZI Germany. And we know of several Popes who are also saints, namely, Pope St. Pius X, the holy and devout Pope of the Eucharist, who reformed the faith and allowed more people to come closer to the Lord in the Eucharist.
And just recently this year we have two new Popes who were declared saints by Pope Francis, our current Pope. They are Pope St. John XXIII, the Pope of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope of peace and the one who worked hard to bring about peace between nations in the height of superpower conflict, and also to usher unity among the quarrelling bodies of the faithful in God. Pope St. John Paul II is the one whom we are often know a lot about, as the Pope who helped to bring down the tyranny of Communism, and who helped the Church to stand up strongly against the evils of this world.
Now one may ask yet again, who are the saints? And how do they play a part in helping us to achieve our salvation in God? And no doubt there are those who misunderstood and having been led by the lies of the devil, thinking that we in the Church of God pray to the saints and worship them as if they are gods. These are among the many things we surely will encounter in our lives, the common opinion of the world around us, the lies of Satan!
So, it is important that we are thoroughly capable of understanding the role that the holy saints play in our faith life, and as I have mentioned the various examples of saints, their actions and their justifications in faith, we can already see that these saints were once also men like us, walking down the same paths we take in this world, but they all share one thing in common, that they truly love the Lord their God, as well as their fellow men, and allow their faith to grow and flourish through their actions which bring grace not just to themselves but also to all those they have interacted with.
Sainthood is a state of someone who had been found worthy by the Church, after a process of formal scrutiny, or through widespread public testimony, that the aforementioned is indeed worthy of heaven, by the virtue of his or her actions, and by the piety of his or her faith, living and substantiated by the actions, which made the person as someone who is assured of heaven at the moment of death.
Is there a precedent for this? Yes, there is, exactly, and none other than, as done by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when He was on the cross at Golgotha. If now the Pope, as the supreme leader and the Vicar of Christ invested with authority, proclaimed that a person is worthy of sainthood, then the first ever saint, was the humble sinner, the criminal who was on the right side of Jesus, who was crucified together with Him.
There were two criminals who were crucified together with Jesus, and the one on the left of Him cursed Jesus and mocked Him, even daring to ask Him to bring Himself down from the cross, so that he too could escape from the suffering and the death that was to come. And what did he get in the end? Nothing, and he went straight into hell, for his pride, arrogance, lack of faith and most importantly, for his lack of repentance.
Both of them were sinners, but what differentiated the criminal on the left, who was condemned, and the one on the right, who was made just and righteous? It was because the criminal on the right fully acknowledged his sins and misconducts in life, humbly seeking the forgiveness of God, and declaring his faith and love in Jesus, knowing that He who is the Master of all, has the power to save all, providing that he was willing to accept the salvation. And indeed, he accepted it, and Jesus praised his faith and humility, and his genuine repentance, saying to him, that he would be with Him that very day in paradise.
Thus, that criminal too, was made a saint, St. Dismas according to tradition, as he was assured of his place in heaven. And thus, following in the same manner, as a tradition, the Church also declares worthy individuals as saints, and many of these were once sinners, who changed their ways and embraced the love and faith in God. And now that they are assured of their places in heaven, and being in heaven, they lie close to the throne of our Lord.
Therefore, now we come to the matter whether we worship the saints as if they are gods. No, and this is absolutely not true, the lies of Satan, the prince of evil, which he spread to misguide many from the truth and bring many away from salvation in the Church. We do not worship the saints, but we ask them for their prayers and intercession instead, asking them sincerely for their support for us, as they are close to the throne of God, and hopefully, through their prayers, the Lord will be moved to have mercy on us.
But this eventually does not mean that we should be idle, and pretending to think that the saints can help us in everything, while we sit back and relax, enjoying ourselves in this world. The saints implore for us and pray for us, but if we ourselves are not proactive in our faith, and if we ourselves embrace wickedness and darkness in this life, then we have no hope for salvation ourselves. Indeed, unless if we follow in the path of the saints, those who have turned away from the darkness into the light and follow their examples.
What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? That means, even today, as we celebrate together the great feast of all the holy saints of God, we too should realise that in each and every one of us lie the potential to become saints and holy before God, just as the saints who have gone before us had done. What matters is whether we make that potential a reality, by following the examples of the saints, embracing the goodness of God and rejecting all the falsehood, the lies and the temptations of the devil.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us ask the multitudes of the saints, the people who have been righteous and worthy in life, and were chosen and marked as belonging to God, for them to pray for us sinners who still live and roam in this world. Let us ask them for their intercession before the throne of our Lord’s mercy, so that God may be moved in His love, to help us to overcome our own sinfulness and vulnerabilities to sin, that we too may become worthy as His saints had been.
May Almighty God be with us always, and may the glory and joy of His saints remind us always of the everlasting promise of happiness and goodness which He gave all those who keep their faith in Him, and who lived according to what He had wanted us to live, so that we too may one day be found worthy of the glorious sainthood, and be holy people, one people united in our praise to God, forever and ever more. Amen.