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.