Solemnity of All Saints – Year A

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John J. Lydon, O.S.A.
Vicariato San Juan de Sahagun
Trujillo (La Libertad)
Peru

Readings
Rev 7: 2-4, 9-14
Ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12a

Today we are only a couple of days away from the election of a new president and congress. It is a time of great emotion with both sides saying that it is the most important election in recent memory. However, as a community of faith we are challenged by God’s Word today to look beyond the voting of Tuesday, which will result in half the country celebrating and the other half manifestly disappointed, to the question of our call to holiness, certainly within the present context, but with a longer vision. The call to holiness is a call we all receive from our baptism and which we are called to live individually. At the same time our faith teaches us that God saved a “people” and called a “people” to a covenant of love, and so we are also called to be a holy people.

The first reading today tells us of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. This above all a sign of blessing which we should acknowledge and be grateful for. The scriptures underscore that the holy amongst us are a great number, are from every place and that if we wanted to count them, we couldn’t. When we see the divisions in our country today, it is very important to remember this, namely that we are surrounded by a multitude of holiness that, if we allow it to inspire us, will lift us up as on eagle wings (Is 40:31), and make us see that the light that unites us as children of the one Father, is more powerful than the darkness of division and the culture of death. The very name of today’s solemnity, All Saints Day, wants to awaken in us an awareness that we have so many sparks of grace that surround us, from both heaven, and from all the corners of earth. How much better we could be if we were able to see those sparks in those that think so differently from ourselves.

That message of hope is underscored in the second reading from the first letter of St. John. It is written during a time of persecution, a time of darkness, but the message is one of light. We are called to greatness, to holiness, because we are children of God and we shall be like Him. In one sense it allows us to put into perspective the present time, and to realize that our hope, our light will not come from the results on Tuesday, but come from our faith in a God who is over all of history, walking with us and shaping us to be like Him.

That faith does not allow us to escape from our own individual call to holiness which is built upon our response to the challenges around us, as a family, a faith community, a country and a world. We are called by the gospel reading of the beatitudes to plant our feet into the real and daily decisions that build us into being more fully children of the one Father and doing it to help build a holy, universal, people of God. It is never an easy task because we are often pulled inward to ourselves, to our family or our own country and forget the wider world where we are called to show the solidarity of the beatitudes. The Kingdom of God, which we help to build by our living the values of the beatitudes, can only be conceived in global terms or it is not God’s Kingdom. And from that perspective we know that everyone who lives in our country, whatever their race, creed or national origin, lives in a privileged situation compared to most of the world, and that calls more out of us, not less.

All three readings point out that this living of holiness is not an easy road, but it is the road of light and true fulfillment. The first reading tells us of the many who gave their lives in the blood of the Lamb. The second reading tells us that The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. And the beatitudes tell us: Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Grace, holiness, comes with the cross, not in avoiding the cost.

Pope Francis in his document on Holiness reminds us that our following the Lord involves sacrifice, as he says: “Jesus himself warns us that the path he proposes goes against the flow, even making us challenge society by the way we live and, as a result, becoming a nuisance. He reminds us how many people have been, and still are, persecuted simply because they struggle for justice, because they take seriously their commitment to God and to others. Unless we wish to sink into an obscure mediocrity, let us not long for an easy life, for ‘whoever would save his life will lose it’” (Gaudete et Exsultate n.90).

We go to the polls on Tuesday, or perhaps we have already voted, and many are filled with deep emotions and sometimes the news media convinces us that it is an apocalyptic event. But the fact that we go and vote, should make us pause and give thanks. As a missionary for many years, I have lived through dictatorship and know that the very act of voting is a privilege, another sign of the light of grace that surrounds us. If we ever lived where we could not vote, we would know that nothing is apocalyptic about a process we do peacefully every couple of years. Hopefully we don’t miss the sign of grace because we may despair at the results.

And so today we pause and put everything of the coming week into the wider perspective that we gain because of our faith. We pause to give thanks to the God who so loves us that he showers upon us a multitude of signs of grace and holiness that can only give us comfort, even in the difficult times.

And we pray that how we live, and the vision of community and peace that we try to build towards those that think differently will result in our collaboration in the building of a holy people of God.