The Solemnity of All Saints – Homily

The Solemnity of All Saints
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
Psalm 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6 (6)
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12a
November 1, 2020

We gather today for Sunday Mass.  Normally we would be celebrating the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time today.  However, today is different. 

It is also November 1st.  That means it is the Solemnity of All Saints.  Throughout the year, there are feast days of saints.  For daily Mass, the readings and some of the prayers may change for the saint.  However, when a saint’’ feastday falls on Sunday, the Sunday takes precedence and the saint’s feast is not normally celebrated.

All Saints Day is celebrated honoring all the saints, most especially those not known by name and, thus, have no feastday of their own.  Unlike most individual saint’s feastday, All Saints Day is a Solemnity.  Solemnities rank higher on our church calendar than Sunday.  Hence, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints today while also fulfilling our Sunday obligation.

I will take a moment here regarding a common misunderstanding of our Catholic understanding of saints.  We do not worship saints.  That would break the commandment to worship only the one true God.  We venerate the saints.  To venerate is to honor them for their devotion and example. 

Knowing they are in Heaven with God we ask for their intercession, meaning we ask them to pray to God for our needs.

Who are the saints?  Everyone in Heaven is a saint.  The Book of Revelation speaks of the ones who have the seal on their foreheads.  Here, I think of the Rite of Baptism of Children when the Sign of the Cross is made on the child’s forehead.

Who can be a saint?  Revelation speaks of the 144,000.  Are we to take this number as an exact number?  That won’t give us very good odds if only 144,000 people made it into Heaven considering there are over 7 billion people alive today.  

So, what does the number 144,000 represent?  144 is 12 times 12.  There are the twelve tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles.  Multiply 12 x 12 brings us to the 144 showing it includes all of them.  The thousand part shows it to be a large number.  Revelation goes onto speak of a “great multitude…from every tribe, race, people, and tongue.”  Anyone can get into Heaven regardless of where they are from, skin color, or language.  While not all accept God, God invites all to his kingdom.

We are the people that long to see the face of God.  So, “Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?” 

If we wish to enter into Heaven, we must be “poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”  We must be “meek, for they will inherit the land.”  We must “hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.

To enter into Heaven, we need to follow God’s Commandments but not just as a list of rules.  We must make following Jesus a way of life.  This is what the Beatitudes represent for us.  (See my video presentation, Are They Rules or a Way of Life)

We need to be “clean of heart” to see God.  However, we cannot make ourselves clean.  Ultimately, we are sinners.  We cannot save ourselves. 

As the Book of Revelation says, “Salvation comes from our God.

To survive “the time of great distress” we must wash our robes to be made “white in the Blood of the Lamb.”  We are made clean when we give our sins to Jesus (“Sacrament of Reconciliation”) so He can wash us in his Blood shed for us on the Cross.

Then, we can be saints in Heaven.

Even now, we are part of the Communion of Saints, made so in Baptism.

Our faith speaks of three states in the Communion of Saints.  The first are those already in Heaven who see God face to face.  We ask them to pray for us.

The second state are those in Purgatory.  Purgatory may be something you don’t hear much about.  Our church has not abandoned its belief in Purgatory (see my article from July, “Purgatory as a Gift That Gets Us in Shape for Heaven” .

It is our practice to offer Mass intentions for our deceased loved ones.  We do this for their time in Purgatory.  It is also our custom that November is a special time of praying for the dead (tomorrow is All Souls’ Day).  We do this in November as the gardens have died and the leaves have fallen.  The barrenness may remind us of death, leading us to pray for our dead.

The third state is us, those who remain here on earth, baptized and striving to follow Jesus. 

We speak of three states in the Communion of Saints.  While three we come together as we here on Earth pray for those in Purgatory and the saints already in Heaven pray for us.

Let us be “poor in Spirit,” surrendering our lives to Jesus, seeking the Kingdom of Heaven with all the saints. 

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