THURSDAY HOMILY: Let us Celebrate the Feast of All Saints. Let us Make Haste to our Brethren
In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - "Let us all rejoice in the Lord, as we celebrate the feast day in honor of all the Saints, at whose festival the Angels rejoice and praise the Son of God." These words are pronounced by priests throughout the world on this Feast of the Solemnity of All Saints. On this Feast we are challenged to remember that all of us are called to holiness as we reflect on the great heroes of the faith. We progress through embracing the stuff of everyday life with living faith. We are all called to be saints.
Our first reading from the Book of Revelation opens our eyes to the Havenly Liturgy. The beloved disciple John, imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, had a "vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb."
"All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: "Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
"Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, "Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?" I said to him, "My lord, you are the one who knows." He said to me, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7)
The same beloved disciple wrote letters to the early Church to inspire them to lives of holiness. Our second reading is an excerpt from his first letter: "Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him."
"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure." (1 John 3: 1-13)
This is what holiness is - to become "like Him". It happens as we live our lives in Him and allow Him to live His life in - and through - us every day. We can live immersed in God in a world corrupted by the effects of sin and filled with all of its imperfection. As we struggle against the allure of sin and the reality of evil we can begin to "see Him as He is", progress in the path of holiness and participate in His ongoing work of redemption. This happens as we freely respond to grace.
Our Gospel (Mt. 5: 1-12) reminds us that this path to holiness is also the path to happiness. The word "beatitude" can be translated "happiness". Do we believe that God wants us to be happy? St Josemaria Escriva once wrote, "I am every day more convinced that happiness in Heaven is for those who know how to be happy on earth."
The saints we celebrate are the "great cloud of witnesses" referred to by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us." (Hebrews 12:1)
They inspire us by their lives and deaths. They assist us by their prayers. They call us toward and forward. Our communion with them is not ended by death, because they are alive in Christ. As the Apostle Paul writes "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38, 39)
The early Christians honored the dead and had a special devotion and affection for the martyrs. We have accounts like the Martyrdom of Polycarp from the middle of the second century which set forth the practice:
"Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more pure than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, so that when being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps ".
The Liturgy was celebrated over the bones of the "holy ones", the saints, who gave their lives for Love Himself; Jesus Christ the Savior. This is the origin of our practice of embedding relics in the altar. Christians do not fear death. We view it with the eyes of faith as a change of habitation. The dates of ...
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