Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today together as the Universal Church we all celebrate with all the glorious saints in Heaven the occasion of the Solemnity of All Saints, as we rejoice on this All Saints’ Day. On this All Saints Day, we rejoice in the glory of all the saints, both the ones whose names and lives are known to us, as well as the many other innumerable holy men and women of God out there who are saints, and yet not known to us. There are also all those other holy men and women who have deserved the glory of Heaven, and yet have not been named and declared saints yet, because of various circumstances. Today, as we rejoice on this All Saints’ Day, we remember all those whom I had mentioned, the ones who have lived their lives worthily of God.
Who are the saints? First of all we have to understand the role that the saints play in the history of our salvation and in the Church. The saints are all those holy men and women of God who have been deemed by the Church after a period of scrutiny and exploration, as worthy of God and as deserving of the glory of Heaven. The process of the declaration of someone as Saint is one that is usually lengthy one, as one went from being a Servant of God, Venerable, and then Blessed or Beatus and finally Saint. All those things are meant to highlight that being a Saint means that the person, his or her life and actions are truly worthy of God and of being exemplary Christians. This is to ensure that the person mentioned as saints are truly worthy of veneration and honour, and being followed by other Christians as good role models and inspirations.
And then, we must understand also that the saints are not divine beings or gods, or divinities, as what some others might and may still misunderstand about this particular practice of the Church. Quite a few people both inside and outside the Church have the misunderstanding and misconception thinking that we worship the saints. Yet, that is a very wrong way of seeing how we Christians venerate the saints and blesseds since the very beginning of the Church. Ever since the earliest days of the Church, the faithful Christians have always venerated important members of the Church who have been martyred for their faith, or have led exemplary lives, venerating them as great role models and inspirations, and beings worthy of Heaven, to inspire them in their own lives.
That is in essence what saints are and how they are significant for us all. The saints are our role models and inspirations, who by their words, actions and deeds have been deemed by the Church and the authorities of the magisterium to be worthy of God’s grace and eternal kingdom, to experience the beatific vision of Heaven prior to the Last Judgment, and are now in Heaven with God and His Angels. Christians and even the Jewish people of the past believed in the life after death, and the existence of the world to come, and the saints are those who have been welcomed to enter into God’s heavenly Presence, to enjoy the fruits of their labour and faithful life. And when we venerate those saints, we honour them for all that they had done out of faith and love for God.
We must understand that veneration does not equal adoration and worship or ‘latria’. Those are reserved for God and God alone. Not even Mary, the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven by virtue of her Divine Motherhood, is to be worshipped and adored. On the contrary, to her we accord the greatest honour and veneration or also known as ‘hyperdulia’ among all the other saints and beings, as the one who bore the Messiah or Saviour of the world in her, and who is our greatest intercessor, ever being present by her Son’s side in Heaven, pleading for our sake before Him. To Mary we accord the greatest of veneration, but that still does not equate to adoration and worship that we only give to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Triune God, the one and only True God.
Then to St. Joseph we accord the next greatest honour of ‘protodulia’ which accords him the first of honour among all the saints just after Mary, her spouse. St. Joseph as the foster-father of the Lord and the Protector of the Universal Church has that place of honour and also because of his virtuous life, which are again great inspiration, examples and role models for each one of us as Christians. Then the other saints and blesseds also have their own unique life stories and examples which we can emulate and follow in our own lives. That is why we venerate them, as we are all inspired by their examples, and wanting to follow them, and why we adopt their names as our baptismal names as well. And not only that, as we also believe that the saints are already in the presence of God in Heaven, we also ask the saints for their help and intercession.
Now, what we need to realise is also that the saints although they are no longer physically with us, they are still very much part of the Church. The saints, blesseds and all the other holy men and women of God already in Heaven and have not yet been officially recognised by the Church as saints, are all parts of the same Church of God, as the Church Triumphant. Meanwhile, all of us still living in this world are the Church Militant, those who are still struggling and enduring the challenges and trials of this world daily. Then the Church is completed by all those souls who have departed from this world and yet, they are not yet worthy of Heaven, and are enduring the purifying flames of purgatory, the Church Suffering. Those holy souls in purgatory will be remembered tomorrow in the All Souls’ Day.
Altogether, the Church Triumphant, the Church Militant and the Church Suffering all form a united Church of God, all united through the indivisible link and union through the common Communion in Christ. All of us are united together as one Church, and as such, we are united in prayer for each other. The saints and blesseds have no more need for our prayers, but they are always praying for us in this world, the Church Militant, as well as for the ones who are still suffering in the purgatory, the Church Suffering. We ourselves as those who are in this world can also pray for those in purgatory. We can see how each and every one of us are still united as one Church, and just as we are still connected to each other, we should also be inspired to follow the examples of the saints in our respective lives.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been shown the means and the ways for us to follow the Lord faithfully as Christians. As we heard in our first reading today from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, the vision of St. John revealed to us the glory of the innumerable saints of God, who in the vision had appeared in their pure white garment, all made white by washing in the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God. The martyrs suffered at the hands of their persecutors and those who oppressed them, but they remained resolute and firm in living their lives faithfully, in standing up to their Christian vocations and missions, and enduring whatever persecutions with grace and faith. Some of them had to shed their blood and some perished, but even those who did not perish, had to endure martyrdom of sorts, as they were persecuted and had to face hardships and challenges.
They practiced what the Lord had told them all to do as we heard in our Gospel passage today on the Beatitudes, or the Eight Beatitudes, in which the Lord listed down all the behaviours and attitudes that are truly worthy of Him, and praised all those who have done according to those ways. Essentially through the Eight Beatitudes, the Lord has called on all of us as Christians to be His true disciples, as those who are poor in spirit, for those who are sorrowful and suffering for their faith, for those who are gentle and kind, and for those who hunger, thirst and desire for justice, for those who show mercy to others, for those who are pure and virtuous at heart, for those who advance and work towards peace and help others to seek peace, and for all those who are persecuted. All of those are essentially what we are expected to do as Christians in our own daily living.
Now, if we are not sure how and where to start in this regard, we must not be disheartened or give up the effort before we even start it. That is precisely why we have the saints to inspire us and to show us the way how we should live our lives. Each and every one of them had distinct and unique circumstances that some may in one way or another inspire us in our respective lives and journey, to be our compass and guidance in how we are to practice our faith in life. Each and every one of us are called and constantly reminded of the many good actions and deeds of our holy predecessors, and we should do the same. The question is, are we all willing to commit ourselves to this cause that the Lord had called us to do? Are we willing to put the effort to transform our lives from one that is based on worldliness and wickedness into one of virtue and adherence to God’s ways?
It is important that as Christians we have to live our lives worthily of the Lord, doing whatever we can to uphold our Christian faith and actions, in each and every possible moments like what the saints had done. But at the same time we must also have the correct understanding of what the saints are and how they can help and lead us on the right path. Sadly, even within the Church there are still many people, among the faithful who misunderstood the meaning of sainthood, and conflating it with idolatry, which resulted in the so-called popular devotions and faith among the people becoming corrupted with the worship and adoration of the saints instead of a proper veneration. Not only that, but those same people end up depending on the saints and hoping that the saints would solve all of their issues and problems, and that by praying to them everything they were troubled with would magically and immediately be solved.
That is why we have to correct our wrong or mistaken understanding and knowledge about the saints, should we have any of them. And we should also encourage ourselves on this Solemnity of All Saints, that each one of us will no longer be idle and be ignorant in the living of our faith. Instead, we should be more active and involved in being true and devout Christians starting this very moment, being inspired by the many examples of our holy predecessors, the saints and blesseds we have among the Church Triumphant. We as the Church Militant are reminded that we are still facing the trials, struggles and challenges that can prevent us and lead us astray from reaching the path towards God and His salvation. We cannot let the temptations of worldly glory and fame to make us abandon these struggles, and as long as we keep our focus on the Lord and strengthened by the courage and examples of His saints, we surely can find a way to live worthily of God.
May the Lord continue to strengthen and guide us in all of our lives, and may He, through His saints, constantly inspire and encourage us that we too may be holy just as those saints had led holy and worthy lives. May God be with us always and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours. All the Holy Saints of God, holy men and women who have glorified the Lord by your lives, all of you who are now with God in Heaven, pray for us sinners! Pray for the sake of all your brethren still living and struggling in this world who are in dire need of God’s mercy, love and strength. Amen.