Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints as part of what is usually called the Allhallowtide, a period of time when we focus our attention on the matter of life and the life to come, when we look upon the glory of the saints as how we usually celebrate the All Saints Day and also remember our beloved ones who have departed from us, on All Souls Day tomorrow.

On this day, we focus our attention on our great and holy predecessors, holy men and women whom the Church has thoroughly examined and determined to be worthy of the glory of heaven. They are those who have been canonised and declared as saints, as those who are believed to be with God in heaven by the many virtues of their lives, by their faith and dedication to God, and quite a few of them laid down their lives for their faith.

Today as we look upon those virtuous and inspiring predecessors of ours, we must understand well who the saints are, how they can help us in our own journey of faith, and what we can do to emulate their own good examples in our own lives. There are unfortunately many among us Christians who do not truly understand or even misunderstood the role of saints in the Church, and who the saints truly are.

First of all, saints are not equal or similar to gods or deities unlike those of the polytheistic religions or beliefs. We do not worship or adore the saints on the same level as our worship or adoration of God. Many Christians within the Church misunderstood or are confused with this and ended up worshipping the saints and prayed to them as if they are able to help us by their own power and might.

And there are also many outside the Church, both Christians and non-Christians alike who also thought that the saints are worshipped in the manner of the worship of the divine, which is clearly not true at all, and is a gross misinterpretation of our true Christian faith and practices. Instead, the saints are venerated and respected, as those who can intercede and pray for us before God.

It is important for us to take note that while saints are those who have departed from this world into the heavenly glory with God, this does not mean that they have been separated from us. In truth, they are still as much part of the Church as we are part of God’s Church. It is just that unlike us who are still struggling through the challenges and temptations of this world, as those who are part of the Church Militant, the saints of God are those who have triumphed through life and are enjoying the fruits of their virtuous life, as the Church Triumphant.

And as the members of God’s one and same Church, and having once walked on this world as we are now, certainly the saints of God are always thinking of us and praying for us. They want us to join them in the glory of heaven praising God as fellow brothers and sisters in faith. However, they cannot help us on their own power or ability as mentioned, as they are neither gods nor deities.

Instead, when we ask the saints to pray for us, they can then exercise that privilege they have, being closer in the presence of God than us, and having lived virtuously in faith, to ask God for favours on our behalf. This is what true intercession of saints is like, and not as what many have misunderstood in the true intention and purpose of saints in the life of the Church. The saints of God are essentially reflections of God’s light and glory.

There are two ways I can think of in order for us to be able to understand the concept of saints better. Let us all first think of the beautiful stained glasses of our churches, where those stained glasses usually depict the many stories of the lives of the Lord, His blessed mother Mary and also the many saints and martyrs of the Church. Those stained glasses are beautiful, but let me ask this of you, can the stained glass be seen when the whole church building is in total darkness without any source of light at all?

Certainly in that scenario, we cannot see the stained glasses at all, no matter how beautiful they are. They do not give light on their own accord. In the same manner therefore, the saints do not become glorious or mighty by their own power, but rather they embody the power and the glory of God. Just as the stained glass can be visible because of the light that pass through them, thus the saints also reflect the wonderful light of God through their own lives and examples.

God created us all to be beautiful and wonderful, but we have chosen to cover all those beauty and wonders by our sins and rebelliousness, preferring to act in the manner that is contrary to God and His will rather than to obey and follow Him. Compared to the stained glass metaphor again, it is as if we are like the stained glasses that are so filled with dirt and grime that they cannot be seen even with light being all around them.

The saints themselves were not perfect, brothers and sisters in Christ. They were just like us, same with us, as stubborn and sinful as we were, as wicked and unfaithful, unjust and corrupted by sin as we are. But what is most important is the fact that they made a conscious choice in each of their lives to turn away from sin and to embrace God and His ways fully, taking up His cross and followed Him wholeheartedly.

And then now, another way that we can compare or liken the saints to, is like that of a candle that cannot be seen on its own accord in the darkness, for candles cannot produce light on their own. Candles can produce light only when heat comes together with oxygen and the matter of the candle to produce beautiful flame that creates light. This is precisely the light that makes candles very precious, especially in the past before the advent of electrical power.

In the same manner then, let us all see the candles as our own lives. As long as the necessary conditions are not available, or that we prevent those conditions from coming together, the flame will not be initiated and no light will ever be produced from the candles. And thus, as long as our lives are deprived of the necessary conditions for us to be holy and just as the saints have been, we cannot follow in their footsteps.

And what are these conditions? It is the openness to the love and presence of God in our lives, allowing Him to enter into our lives and transform us from once beings of darkness and sin, into beings of light and filled with obedience to God. And as we allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives and transform us by our words, actions and deeds, then we will reflect the light and glory of God just as the saints and holy people of God had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must truly be thankful that we have all those wonderful role models for us to follow, all those many saints and dedicated holy men and women. And the greatest among all these is none other than Mary herself, the ever blessed Mother of God. For Mary is the greatest among all saints and the most wonderful among all of God’s creatures, having not just been the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, but she was also exemplary in her faith and dedication to God all her life.

Mary’s total obedience to the will of God even at the moment of her greatest uncertainty and perhaps even fear, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her bearing the Good News that she was to bear a Child, showed us what true Christian living and discipleship truly means. And she was not just virtuous and righteous throughout her life, but she even followed her Son all the way to Calvary, seeing Him bearing the burden of Cross and having to die for the sake of all mankind.

Mary’s amazing faith and her role as the Mother of God give her the special privilege and status being the one closest to Jesus, her Son in His glory in heaven. This is why many of us Christians have particularly strong devotion to Mary because we believe that as the greatest among all saints and as the one whom her Son loves dearly, she is indeed our greatest intercessor before God, just as she is also the perfect role model for us Christians to follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now having discussed all these, let us all think and discern how we can make our own lives to be holy like those of the saints. Let us discern how we can allow God to enter into our lives and make us to shine brightly with His light so that we too can be examples and inspiration for one another in living our lives with good faith. Are we able to commit ourselves to God and to His path following the examples set by our holy predecessors?

Let us all be thankful for the wonderful gifts and opportunities we have, in having so many wonderful role models in our saints. Let us all therefore commit ourselves to a new life filled with holiness from now on, living our lives according to how the Lord has shown and taught us to live, following His laws and commandments, devoting ourselves in each and every days of our lives so that one day we too may share in the eternal glory of the saints of God in heaven. May God be with us all. Amen.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-3

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is. All who have such a hope, try to be pure, as He is pure.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 2-4, 9-14

I saw another Angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four Angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal : a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel. After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, Who sits on the Throne, and the Lamb?”

All the Angels were around the Throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the Throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, “Amen, Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honour, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

At that moment, one of the elders spoke up, and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution, they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Thursday, 1 November 2018 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints, celebrating the glory of those whom the Church has examined and deemed officially to be worthy of the everlasting glory of heaven, to be together with God and to be in His presence after they passed on from this world, without the need to pass through the purifying flames of purgatory.

The saints were those whom the Church has accorded this dignity, by the virtue of its authority, that after their lives have been carefully scrutinised, their actions and works, inspirations and writings have been evaluated, they were deemed to be sufficient of being accorded the honour of immediate glory of heaven. And that is why, one of the requirements of someone to be declared a saint, is for the saint to have performed some miracles among the people of God, through intercession in their name.

And this brings us to the fact that the saints are not those who are distant from us, but instead, they are part of the same Church that we are in, and although they have already passed on from this world, but they are not distant or forgotten from us. Neither do they forget us, all of us, their relatives, their friends and peers, and as fellow brothers and sisters in the

Lord, all those who are still living in this world filled with sin and darkness.

The saints are constantly praying for us, before the throne of God, interceding for our sake, and hoping that through their prayers and by God’s grace, we may turn away from sin and repent from all of our wicked ways, that one day, we too may join them all, in honouring and glorifying God in heaven, in His presence, through our genuine conversion of heart and faith in Him.

But we also should not think of the saints as those who are superhuman or extraordinary beings beyond our reach. In fact, all of us are called to follow their examples in holiness and to be holy ourselves. All of us have this potential in us, to become saints through our own actions and deeds, which are in accordance with God’s will. The saints themselves once walked this world, and they were sinners just like ourselves, before their glorification in heaven.

Yes, all saints were also sinners once, with the sole exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, who has been especially prepared by God, to be free from the taints of sin, in order to be the worthy vessel and Ark of the New Covenant, Christ Himself, that by bearing God in her, she is also pure from all taints of sin and corruption of evil. All other saints were sinners, some were venial in nature, but some were in fact notorious in their wickedness.

Take for example, St. Augustine of Hippo, who was once an adulterer and great sinner, who engaged in all sorts of hedonistic behaviour and lifestyle during his younger days, when he was tempted by the many worldly pursuits and temptations, following the wrong paths and the wrong ideas, influenced by his peers and friends. But through the constant prayers of his mother, St. Monica, and by God’s grace, St. Augustine eventually saw the errors of his ways, repented and turned towards God with a newfound faith.

And we know of St. Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord, who was a tax collector among the people. Tax collectors at that time were known to be corrupt, and they helped the Romans to oppress the people through harsh imposition of taxes, that the people had to pay to the Roman government, through the intermediary of the tax collectors, some if not many of whom, were corrupt.

But St. Matthew listened to the Lord’s call when He called him to follow Him. He abandoned all of his works and his profession, and committing himself to the Lord, he turned away from the sins of his profession and instead of collecting and seeking for money from the people, he became a collector of souls of the people for the Lord, by saving them from their own sins, through his courageous defence of the faith and by his inspirational Gospel, the Gospel of St. Matthew that became the source of faith for countless people.

There were many other saints who were even murderers, prostitutes and also sinners in the eyes and opinion of most of the people. And yet, interestingly, these also became saints in the end. How is that possible, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is indeed possible, because God’s grace and mercy is so vast, that as long as we are willing to embrace His love and mercy, His forgiveness for our sins and have that courage and commitment to carry on living our lives with a renewed faith and direction, then everything is possible for God.

The Lord Himself mentioned before the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law how the tax collectors and prostitutes were going on ahead on the journey towards the kingdom of God as compared to the former. That is because the tax collectors and the prostitutes made the conscious effort to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, and opened their hearts and minds, to allow the Lord to enter into them and made a change and difference in their lives, while the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law hardened themselves with pride, and refused to listen to the truth of God.

It is important that we recognise in each and every one of us, the potential to be saints. The Lord has given to us all, those who are now saints, all of us living and present in the world today, and even those who have willingly chosen condemnation and eternal suffering in hell, all of us received the same gifts, the same love and the same grace from God. But what God has given us, will not bear good fruits of faith as desired, unless we do something about what God gave us.

The saints of God are called the members of the Church Triumphant, for they have won against death just as the Lord Himself had done. They have won for themselves, by the grace of God, an eternity of glory, peace and joy with the Lord, for their righteousness, good actions and faithfulness. And they should be our role models in how we live our lives, as we, who are still living in this world, are the members of the Church Militant.

This was why I mentioned earlier that while the saints are no longer physically with us in this world, but they are still together with us, and the holy souls in purgatory, the Church Suffering, part of the same one Church of God. And the saints inspire each one of us to live according to how they have lived, in their courageous living of their faith, and in their great dedication to the Lord, which is why they are now part of the great Church Triumphant.

All of us can also be saints, just as all saints, with the exception of Mary, were sinners too once. What is important is that, they all experienced genuine conversion in life, turning away from their past sins and wickedness, and embracing fully God’s ways and truth through their lives. Many of them even had to endure suffering and persecutions for God’s sake, because of their total conversion and radical change in life.

And for those who charge that we are committing idolatry by worshipping the saints, we also must be very clear why we have this devotion to saints of God. The saints are not glorified by their own power, glory or deeds. They are not like God, but instead, they reflect the glory of God through their actions and deeds in life. A comparison can be made on the beautiful stained glasses in our churches, where we usually wonder at their beauty and marvel at the amazing work of art found in them.

However, stained glass that is left in the darkness cannot be seen, just as in a darkened church, the stained glass cannot be seen either, as the stained glass do not emit light on its own. But when light passes through the stained glass, the beauty of the stained glass is shown, because of the light that passes through it, which illuminates the stained glass. In the similar way, the saints are glorified and venerated, not because their own power, virtue or glory, but because of God’s work through their lives. God is the source of all the glory and honour.

And when we venerate the saints, we give even greater glory to God, for the saints are servants of God, and when His servants are glorified and honoured, of course He is also glorified and honoured even more. But today, we need to realise that the best way to honour and venerate the saints, are not for us to go and touch their relics, or to visit their shrines and places of honour. The best way for us to honour and venerate the saints, is for us to emulate their examples and follow in their footsteps, in living our faith in the way that the Lord had shown us through those same saints.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, as we rejoice together with all the saints and holy men and women of God in heaven, the Church Triumphant today, on this Solemnity of All Saints, let us all, as members of the Church Militant, strive to do our best in our lives, to lead a holy and faithful life, from now on if we have not done so thus far. Let us all seek to follow the examples of the saints, and do our best to keep ourselves close to God, by having a deep personal relationship with Him.

Let us all turn away from our sins, and from our wicked ways, and instead, commit ourselves to a prayerful life, to a loving existence to all those whom we encounter in life, by showing love, care and concern for all those who we meet in life, to our friends and family members, to our relatives and to even strangers that we encounter in our daily living. Let us all turn towards God with all of our hearts, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly just as the saints of God had done.

And today, as we also prepare for the Feast of All Souls tomorrow, also pray for the sake of the holy souls in purgatory, the souls of the faithful departed, who are still longing for the glory of heaven, but because of their residual sins, have to wait in the purifying flames of purgatory. Let us pray for them together with the saints, and ask them to pray for us as well, that we may turn completely from sin, and avoid falling into purgatory, or worse still, hell. May the Lord be with us always, and may He always be glorified through the glory of His saints! Amen.

Thursday, 1 November 2018 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”