All Saints by Fra Angelico 


First reading Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.
  After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’
  One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

Responsorial Psalm 23(24):1-6

Such are the men who seek your face, O Lord.
The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,
  the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
  on the waters he made it firm.
Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
  Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
  who desires not worthless things.
He shall receive blessings from the Lord
  and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
  seek the face of the God of Jacob.


Second reading 1 John 3:1-3

We shall be like God because we shall see him as he really is

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
  by letting us be called God’s children;
  and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
  therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
  but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
  we shall be like him
  because we shall see him as he really is.
Surely everyone who entertains this hope
  must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

Gospel Matthew 5:1-12a

How happy are the poor in spirit

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
  theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
  they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
  they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
  they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
  they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
  they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
  they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
  theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’


The Feast of All Saints extends to all the holy men and women, known and unknown, who have lived in communion with Jesus and who now enjoy the Beatific Vision in heaven. This feast seems to be of Celtic origin and has been celebrated on the 1st November since about 800AD.

The Second Vatican Council reminds us that we are all called to a life of holiness: ‘All are called to holiness … a holiness which is expressed in many ways by men and women who, each in his or her own state of life, tend to the perfection of love’(Lumen Gentium n.39).

We know that we can pray for each other and when we are suffering or feeling alone, it is a great comfort to remember that people are praying for us. We are especially grateful for the prayer of those who have allowed God’s love to so transform their lives that all the branches that do not bear the fruit of love have been pruned away till their whole life is a harvest of love.

When the saints in heaven and those on earth who are being transformed by Jesus’ love take us into their heart and hold us in their prayer we are being warmed by the love that glows in their heart. All baptised Christians belong in this family. We are never alone.

As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: ‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God’(Hebrews 12:1-2).

Saint Bernard reminds us of how much the saints help us: ‘When I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning. Calling the saints to mind inspires us and arouses in us a longing to enjoy their company. We long to be united in happiness with all the saints. The saints want us to be with them; let us not be indifferent. They await us; let us not ignore them’ (Sermon 2, see Office of Readings Nov 1st).

The saints are enjoying the fullness of love for which we are all created. Saint Paul tells us: ‘Now we see only a dim reflection. Then we will see face to face. Now we know only imperfectly; then we will know fully, even as we are fully known’ (1Corinthians 13:12).

Saint John has the same teaching. In today’s Second Reading he assures us that in heaven we will be like God ‘for we shall see God as he really is’ (1John 3:2). He goes on to remind us that to see God as God really is, we must be pure ‘as pure as Christ’.

Life is, in many ways, like a fire. If we accept life as it comes and keep our hearts focused on God who is present to us in every situation, we will find that God’s love will indeed purify us. Our temptation is to avoid things and to live in distraction. The saints remind us to keep seeking love until our whole being is drawn into the fire of God’s love.

Then, like two candles jointed together, there is but one flame and our hearts burn with Jesus’ love for God and for others. We are not like this yet, but neither were the saints. They allowed themselves to be purified by love and we too are called to ‘tend toward the perfection of love’.

Loving will purify us till we, too, are numbered among the saints whose lives we commemorate today.

Fr Michael Fallon msc