All Saints Day, Year B
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
Psalm 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
1 John 3:1-3
November 1, 2015
While we might not know a lot about the saints, they are familiar to us. Often our churches are named after them. Our parish is named in honor of Mary. In our area, there is St. Catherine’s of Siena, St. James, and St. Anthony’s among the churches named after saints.
Other familiar saints can include St. Francis of Assisi and any of the St. Theresa. There are numerous saints that are known by name and officially canonized as saints by the church. However, one does not have to be canonized to be a saint.
Anyone who is in Heaven is a saint. Realizing there are countless saints that we do not know by name, we venerate all the saints today, canonized and those not known.
Saints are one of the misunderstand parts of our Catholic faith. There are people who think we worship the saints. We do not worship the saints. We worship only God. We venerate the saints.
This can be confusing, as “venerate” is not a common word, even among faithful Catholics. Worship belongs to God alone as we recognize the blessings and love that God bestows on us. To venerate means to pay honor and respect. We venerate the saints as those who have gone before us striving to live holy lives and serve as intercessors for us. When we pray with the saints in mind, we are not asking the saint to do a miracle. We ask the saint to intercede by praying for us as they stand before God in the heavenly kingdom.
How many saints are there?
Our first reading from Revelation speaks of the 144,000 marked with the seal. Some cultic groups take this to mean there are 144,000 of great status in Heaven. We do not take this to be the number of saints.
Remembering the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles, twelve is seen as a number to represent the whole group. 144 is 12 squared indicating every a greater “whole” further augmented by the thousand in 144,000. The number 144,000 is thus meant to point to the fact that Heaven is open to every one from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
Who can be a saint? Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? One who hands are sinless. Who is sinless? None of us are perfect and if we want to get into Heaven we need to admit this. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation comes from our God.
The saints knew this and humbled themselves. To get into Heaven we need to humble ourselves to be poor in spirit, to be meek, and to show mercy. We need to stop seeking greatness. We need to set aside pride and greatness. We need to strive to follow the commandments but admit our shortcomings and confess our sins.
Is it easy? No. We don’t like to admit our shortcomings but when we do, we admit our need for God. When we acknowledge our need for God, it can in turn help us to seek God’s grace by coming to church every week, perhaps every day. Is it easy to get up for Mass at 7:00 a.m.? For some no, but that shows we are willing to sacrifice to seek God in our lives. If we can’t get to Mass daily do we at least pray daily, saying God I want to be part of our life?
People like to think that everyone gets into Heaven. Heaven is open to every people of every nation but we have to truly desire it in our hearts.
Of course, anyone in their right minds should desire Heaven (considering the alternative is eternity in Hell) but is Heaven, is God, important enough to us to make it a priority in our lives?
The saints did. The saints weren’t always perfect. St. Augustine never even become Christian until he was at least 30.
We might like to think everyone gets into Heaven. The reality is Hell exists. The only way we get into Heaven is to follow the example of the saints and to turn our hearts to God. We do not get into Heaven by doing what we want. We must hunger and thirst for righteousness and humbly realize we are poor in spirit and then we can know the Kingdom of Heaven and be counted among the saints.