“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb,” the great multitude of saints cry out before God’s heavenly throne in a scene from the Book of Revelation.
The image, captured in the first reading for Sunday’s liturgy, is one of triumph and praise. John has a vision of the heavenly court. The faithful who have already completed their life on earth are gathered before God. They confess their faith before him in praise, worshiping the Lord together in one great communion.
They celebrate the triumph of Christ and his victory over sin and death, and they share in Christ’s triumph and victory for they 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.”
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. In the celebration, we remember all the saints who have gone before us in faith. We celebrate the life that has been won for them in Christ Jesus and the fullness of that life which they now share. We celebrate all the saints – those canonized and those whose names we do not know. The celebration is one of great joy and hope.
The joy flows from the recognition that they have passed through the struggles and challenges that life in this world pose. These have now passed and what remains is the love they experienced in life, purified of all imperfections and realized in its fullness before the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The hope flows from their witness. The saints lived in all parts of the world, in different times, speaking different languages, having different talents and gifts, personalities and temperaments, strengths and weaknesses. Yet common to them all was their faithfulness. They have remained true and so share in the fullness of life, a life we long to share.
The celebration today reminds us that we are all called to be saints. We are called to be faithful and steadfast. The first way we do this is by seeking the will of God and striving to live His will in our lives. The Gospel reading for Sunday’s Mass comes from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus teaches his disciples the beatitudes. He does this on a mountain. The imagery reflects times in the Scriptures where God is encountered on a mountain. In a particular way the scene recalls that Moses when up on the mountain to receive the law and so entered into covenant with God. Jesus now offers the new law or rather brings the old law to its fulfillment.
At the heart of the law is love, love for God and love for neighbor. These are reflected in the beatitudes. God wills that we should love as he is love. “Blessedness” comes when we embrace this law of love in faith and obedience to his will.
Every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist we gather with the saints, we in this world gather around the altars where we “remember” and enter into the mystery of Christ’s victory. As we do this, the saints in heaven with all the angels gather before the heavenly throne offering perfect and eternal thanksgiving to God. In our prayer, we always include the “Our Father,” the prayer that Jesus gave us when he was asked how to pray. In this prayer we say “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
While many times we think of doing the Lord’s will in simple actions or seeking his will in making decisions in daily life, we are also called to do his will in the major decisions of life and in living life itself. One such example is our vocation in life. Am I called to married life? Am I called to the single state? Am I called to religious life? Or am I called to the priesthood? The saints regularly remind us that seeking God’s will in life is a sure way to find peace and joy, even amid the struggles and challenges of life.
During the next two weeks all of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are participating in a priestly vocation program titled “Called by Name.” We, the faithful of the archdiocese, are invited to identify and thereby encourage young men 16 and over who show signs of a priestly vocation to consider the possibility that God may be calling them to the priesthood.
So often as young people consider their future and a path to take in life they ask themselves, “what do I want to do with my life?” Many of us asked the same question when we were younger. The “Called by Name” program helps us to rephrase the question, a question we are all and always encouraged to ask: “What does God want me to do with my life?”
The celebration of All Saints is a celebration of victory. A time to remember the glory that is shared by all the saints in the communion of heaven. These are the ones who sought the will of God in their lives and lived it out. Whether as married, single, religious or ordained, they remained faithful.
Today we are inspired by their faithfulness, by their witness and by their share in Christ’s victory; and we are encouraged to seek his will and to respond – “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Morrisville.