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.”

Thursday, 1 November 2018 : 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.

Thursday, 1 November 2018 : 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.

Thursday, 1 November 2018 : 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.”

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us celebrate together the great Solemnity of All Saints, all the holy men and women who have gone before us, and whom the Church has officially recognised as those who have deserved and are worthy of the glory of heaven, by the virtue of their lives on earth, their exemplary and inspiring life examples, and their commitments to the Church, to God and His people.

And all of us have to realise that, the saints and all the martyrs of God who have left this earthly existence before us are still as much as part of the entire Universal Church with us, together with the holy souls that are now in Purgatory. Therefore, the Church does not consist just of the physical Church that we see now in this world, but also the spiritual Church that is in heaven and in Purgatory, constantly praying for one another.

We are all parts of the Church in this world, the Church Militant, all those who are still struggling daily to remain true and faithful to the Lord, sinners who are called to conversion and change of life, to be true disciples of the Lord. Meanwhile, the holy souls in Purgatory, those who were deemed to be worthy of the Lord, not counted among the wicked, but not yet worthy of the fullness of God’s glory because of the venial or minor sins they still had, belong to the Church Suffering.

Therefore, tomorrow, on All Souls’ Day, we will remember these holy souls who are suffering in Purgatory, to atone for the remainders of their sins. But today, we rejoice together celebrating with the Church Triumphant, the holy saints of God, those deemed worthy by the Church to merit immediately the glory of heaven. Thus, we believe that they are now in heaven, in the presence of God, praying and interceding for our sake.

There are still many who misunderstand the practice of the veneration of the saints in the Church, including those who have fallen into certain heresies and rejected this venerable practice. The veneration of saints begun as a practice beginning from the days of the saints and martyrs of the early Church, when those who were martyred for their faith were remembered for their staunch and steadfast faith in God.

In fact, the practice of celebrating the Holy Mass on the Altar in which the relics of saints and martyrs had been deposited, began from those years, when Christians had to gather and meet in secret, celebrating the Holy Mass in catacombs or graveyards underground, where the tombs of the saints and martyrs were located. The Holy Mass would be celebrated above those tombs, linking to what we practice now.

And through this, we also can see the clear link between the life of those saints and martyrs, with the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, which is celebrated during every single celebration of the Holy Mass. The life, virtues and holiness of the saints cannot be separated from the One from Whom the saints drew the source of their strength, and from Whom came the holiness that was reflected on their lives.

Contrary to what some accused wrongly of the Church and our faith, we do not worship the saints in any way, or give them the adoration that is reserved to God alone. However, we venerate them and honour them because of their exemplary life, which the Church deems that each and every one of us can also follow in our own daily lives. Through the veneration of the saints, it is hoped that we too can be touched in our hearts by their holiness, and become holy ourselves.

The saints intercede for our sake, praying for us before God, that their prayers, being close to God, will be heard more by the Lord our God. We do not pray to the saints asking them to do what we want, or perform wondrous and miraculous deeds, as this is a common misconception of what we Christians believe about the saints and holy men and women we venerate. Rather, we ask them to pray for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then, we also have to remember that no one was born a saint, except for Mary, the mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, because of her special role in our salvation, to be the new Ark of the Covenant, bearing God Himself in her. And therefore, God made her to be special, conceived without the taints of original sin, and remaining Immaculate through her life. I will discuss her in a moment, but now let us turn our focus back to the saints.

The saints themselves were sinners, and some were indeed great sinners. Some were murderers, like St. Vladimir of Russia, prince of Kiev, who was a pagan before his conversion, leading a very immoral lifestyle, and killing many people during his reign, including his own father and children. But, the Lord called him to the light, and by embracing the Christian faith, St. Vladimir had a total change of heart, dismissing his old pagan and immoral life, and became a great Christian ruler from then on.

Some others were unrepentant sinners for many years, like St. Augustine of Hippo, now known as a great Doctor of the Church and well-known for his many works and writings that still heavily influences the Church up to this day. Yet, at that time, early in his life, he practiced many immoral behaviour, having a child outside of marriage with his mistress, as well as many other sins he committed. But through the ceaseless efforts and prayers from his mother, St. Monica, St. Augustine eventually repented and changed his life from a life of sin into a life of holiness devoted to God.

What does this tell us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must not see the saints and the holy men and women of God, the Blesseds and the Venerables, the Servants of God, and many more people who have led virtuous and righteous lives as people who were impeccable and unblemished. Indeed, now they have been made clean by the Lord, as St. John saw in the Book of Revelations, in his vision of the multitudes of holy men and women in pure white garment, washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

The Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord has purified us all from our sins, from His loving sacrifice at Calvary. Thus the same Blood has purified all the saints, by either the virtue of their lives, or by their courageous defence of their faith to the point of martyrdom, and many other ways by which these saints have glorified the Lord.

I like to compare the saints to the stained glasses in our churches. Indeed, this comparison is good because we use stained glasses in the churches in order to show to the people first of all, the life of our God, His mission on earth and the important events that occurred throughout the Old and New Testaments. Yet, there are also many others that depict the life of God’s saints.

In the past, many people were uneducated and illiterate, and they were not even able to read the Bible as we are today. It is often that we take our literacy and the easy availability of the Bible for granted. But at that time, the people could not read the Bible because they could not read at all, and in the even earlier days, before the Bible was codified by the Church, and at times of great persecution, it was through drawings and sketches on the walls of the catacombs and the churches.

And this practice continued with the stained glasses. What is beautiful about stained glasses is that, in the old times, the interior of the church building would be dark without any source of light. Candles are used to provide these lights at night, but natural light from the outside during daytime are allowed to enter the church building, through the stained glasses.

The stained glasses on their own shine no light, and stained glasses in the darkness cannot be seen. In truth, they seem so beautiful because of the light that passes through them. And we can see the light made more beautiful through the scenes depicted on the stained glasses. It is the same with God and His saints. The saints have no merit on their own except through the Lord. They are holy and honoured because God’s light can be found in them, shining through them.

Therefore, just as the stained glasses make the light passing through them more beautiful, God is glorified through the deeds of His saints, and all of us can also learn from their good examples, by following their footsteps and practicing what they have done and apply these in our own respective lives. We are called to be saints just as those who have gone before us received the crown of heavenly glory.

We may be apprehensive and think that through our sins, we have not been worthy of God, but as we have discussed just earlier, saints themselves were born not as saints, and all of them have been sinners before. What matters is the conversion of the heart, mind, body and indeed our entire being, that we turn our backs to our sinful past and all the wickedness we have committed in life. What matters is that we change our ways, following the examples of the saints, our role models.

And the greatest role model we can have is Mary, the mother of our God, the greatest among all saints. For she is indeed in heaven, closest to the throne of her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. She is always praying for us, her adopted children, because by entrusting her to us, God has made her to be our mother as well. Let us model ourselves based on the model of Mary, in her faith and dedication to God, and remind ourselves each and every day that all of us have the potential for holiness.

Let us all therefore today be encouraged by the examples of the saints, shedding from ourselves all the darkness and the dirty sins and wickedness covering our beings, that through God’s light in us, realised through our faith and actions, we may shine brightly with the light of God in our lives. Let us be the beautiful stained glasses of the Lord, shining with God’s light and showing forth God’s glory through our actions.

May the Lord be with us always, and may through the intercession of His saints, each and every one of us will be brought ever closer to our loving God, and we hope that one day we will share the eternal joy of heaven with them. O holy saints of God in heaven, pray for us always, and pray for our brethren who are now suffering in Purgatory as well. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : 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.”