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
Responsorial Psalm 23(24):1-6
Second reading 1 John 3:1-3
We shall be like God because we shall see him as he really is
Gospel Matthew 5:1-12a
How happy are the poor in spirit
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.