ALL SAINTS DAY
Most of us have had the experience of attending a high school graduation ceremony, or maybe a different awards ceremony. Underclassmen watch the seniors receive their diploma, and many of them are honored with special awards recognizing their achievements during the past four years. Watching the older comrades reach the goal inspires the younger ones to keep on striving. All Saints' Day is like that for the Church.
What is life on earth if not a kind of school where we are supposed to learn wisdom, courage, and holiness? And heaven is kind of like an eternal awards banquet, filled with feasting and joy. Life on this earth is hard and for most people justice is not done on earth. Hundreds and thousands of holy men and women suffer through life's privations and challenges, glorifying God by their patience and heroic generosity, and we never hear anything about them.
But we hear non-stop reports about a few movie stars, politicians, and CEOs, many of whom who lead lives of corruption, self-indulgence and scandal. The bad guys seem to win pretty frequently here on earth, while the good guys suffer. Today, the Church reminds us of where the eternal rewards will actually go. What a relief to know that this beautiful but incomplete earthly life is duly crowned in the life to come!
We celebrate saints' days all throughout the liturgical calendar. But All Saints' Day reminds us of something that can get lost in the other saints' days. The most famous saints often led such extraordinary lives that it's hard for us to emulate them. It's easy to honor them, recognizing all that they did for Christ, and all that Christ did for them. But honoring the saints is not enough. We also need to emulate them. And this is where All Saints' Day comes in.
On Halloween we “dress up” in costumes and put on masks to “hide out,” to conceal who we really are. Originally the “disguises” worn on “All Hallows Eve” were supposed to fool the demons and other dark forces roaming the planet on that fateful night. The idea was that good Christians would be left alone by evil spirits if they dressed to look like they themselves were part of Satan’s army. Well, today’s feast is not a fooling feast, but a feast honoring the army of God.
Today we honor all of saintly men and women who have not been canonized by the Church, who are not famous saints, but who have nevertheless followed Christ heroically and taken their place in heaven. These are the saints that lived ordinary lives on the outside, and extraordinary lives on the inside. And God didn't overlook them. And there is no shortage of them. They make up a "great multitude, which no one could count," as St John puts it in the First Reading.
Most of us live ordinary lives on the outside. And may be some of us, because of that, think that we can't really live up to the high standard set by the famous saints who did miracles and lived dramatic lives. But today's Solemnity assures us that if we live each day as Christ would have us, striving to do God's will with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then our lives, which look so ordinary on the outside, will be truly extraordinary on the inside.
One way we can tap into the encouragement that God offers us through the saints is by asking for their intercession. Since the very beginning of the Church, Christians have asked their older brothers and sisters who have already gone to the Father's house to pray for them.
Some non-Catholics quote the Bible to criticize it, pointing out that the New Testament says Jesus is the "only mediator" between God and man. It certainly does say that. But does that mean we can't pray for each other? Certainly not. In James 5:16 we are commanded to "pray for one another" because "the fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful." And who is more righteous than the saints? Today we are reminded that all baptized Christians form one family in Jesus Christ. And just as good parents generously let the older children help and teach the younger children, God does the same for us.
As we honor our older brothers and sisters who are enjoying beatific vision and ask their intercession, we also need to strive to follow their path of heroic living by living the beatitudes in our lives for the sake of honoring Christ who died heroically for our salvation.