YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS
HOMILY THEME: WE BELIEVE IN THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Rev 7 : 2 – 14, 1 Jn 3 : 1 – 3, Mt 5 : 1 – 12.
The feast of all Saints is a great day when the holy mother Church celebrates the triumph of grace over sin. It is the 9th article of our faith. The belief in the COMMUNION OF SAINTS is the belief in the “spiritual cooperative society” where the 3 segments of the Church; the Church triumphant, the Church Suffering and the Church militant unite in the celebration of our commonwealth of grace. The bible makes it quite clear that there is great rejoicing among the angels and saints in heaven over one single sinner who is made a candidate of heaven, Lk 15: 7. On a day like this the Church celebrates this patrimony of grace on a very positive mood. Tomorrow also, but on a negative, or sorrowful mood, the Church prays in hope for saints who haven’t made it yet into heaven because of their venial sins and human foibles,1 Jn 5: 16 who are not condemned to the clutches of damnation, but hoping to be saved but as through fire, 1 Cor 3: 15.
B. WHO ARE THE SAINTS?
The Saints are not necessarily the perfect / holy people as many of us think, but the people who have been washed in the Blood of Christ. Salvation is all about REDEMPTION ( through faith in what Jesus has done on Calvary), REPENTANCE (submitting yourself for constant purification by the blood of Christ) and REGENERATION ( being born -again through renewal in the Spirit). St John says in today’s 2nd reading that when we realize what great love the father has lavished upon us by making us his children inspite of ourselves, we should then try to purify ourselves to become as pure as he is.
Who are the Saints that we celebrate today?
1. They are people who have learnt to rely on the Grace of Jesus Christ through their prayer life ( THE POOR IN SPIRIT), Jn 15 : 1 – 3.
2. They are the people who have acquired the gentility that Jesus taught us (THE GENTLE), Matt 11 : 29 – 30.
3. They are the people who are comforted by Jesus’ friendship especially in moments of mourning (THE MOURNERS), Jn 11 : 26.
4. They are the people who hunger for Jesus always especially in the Eucharist through being in a state of grace and uprightness ( THE RIGHTEOUS),1 Cor 11 : 29.
5. They are the people who enjoy the mercy of Jesus ( as Zacheus did) by being merciful themselves to their fellow servants (THE MERCIFUL), Lk 19 : 1 – 10.
6. They are the people who purify themselves always in the Blood of Jesus when they fall into sin ( THE PURIFIED), Rev 7 : 13 -14.
7. They are those who seek the peace of Christ always with both God and neighbour (THE PEACEMAKERS), Jn 20 : 20 – 23.
8. They are the people who are ready always to suffer persecutions and tribulations for Christ’s sake (THE MARTYRS), Lk 9 : 23.
The saints may not necessarily have all the above qualities in them in order to qualify as such. But one thing is clear, that once we begin to commune sincerely with Christ, salvation has started. Every other thing is a matter of degree and time.
C. WHAT DO THE SAINTS DO?
What do the Angels and Saints do in heaven? My simple answer is : All – day celebration of the home coming of Saints. The Saints are like the Alumni (Old boys and girls) of an old institution who come together to their mother house after a very long time. The Angels are like the staff /workers of the institution – no leave, no transfer. The Bible tells us that ‘The kingdom of heaven is not eating and drinking but celebration of righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit’, Rom 14 :17. The kingdom of God has this constant agenda in its programme, apart from the daily worship of God, the daily celebration of sinners’ return. And so, the motif of the Catholic Church as the ‘Sinners’ Church’ established by the gospel story of Zacheus continues through the celebration of All Saints and All Souls and also with the theology of communion of Saints being harzarded in today’s celebration.
I pity those people who think that the dead saints are not yet in heaven ; Virgin Mary, Peter and Paul, and even their holy pastors who died many years ago – they think that they are all lying in their graves waiting for the rapture. Oh no! This is negative eschatology ; a hopeless eschatology that suspends the happiness of heaven to the end time – only God knows when that will be. If they were right, Jesus would not have told us that Lazarus (the poor pious beggar) went immediately to heaven after his death even while the world was still in progress, Lk 16. I hope you got my argument? Luke’s gospel makes it abundantly clear that there is joy before the Angels and Saints in heaven over one sinner who returns to heaven. Sinners are like the lost coins (those lost due to no fault of their own). The owner goes in search for these ones even more desperately because just like a PhD student who loses one page of his 100 page dissertation cannot submit his thesis without the lost page, Jesus will need to account for all of us before his father. The lost sheep represents the sinners who are lost due to lack of sufficient knowledge on the part of the sinner. The father still rejoices at the recovery of such. The Prodigal Son represents the last class of executive sinners lost fully under the blame of the sinner who has sufficient knowledge of his father’s will – just like losing the soul of a Catholic priest. No divine movement until the sinner comes within the region of grace. But the celebration is highest because a prince of the Church is back to the heavenly demesine.
Today’s gospel enumerates a number of qualities or saintly dispositions which those who commune with Jesus acquire ;
(i) Humility ; Like Zacheus, they make a humble search for Jesus – They are poor in spirit.
(ii) Calmness ; Like Lazarus, they depend on God for consolation in their life’s travails – They are comforted after they have mourned.
(iii) Gentleness ; Like Jacob, they gently serve their masters – They inherit the earth.
(iv) Sincerity ; Like Abraham, they are faithful to God – They hunger and thirst for righteousness.
(v) Forgiveness ; Like Peter, they learn to forgive their neighbour not 7 but 70 ×7 – They obtain mercy from God.
(vi) Holiness ; Like John, they maintain their virginity /purity – They shall see God.
(vii) Peacefulness ; Like Joseph, they do not make trouble with people – They are called sons of God.
(viii) Martyrdom ; Like St Paul and the rest of the apostles, they keep the faith till the end – They are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and their reward is great.
As we celebrate today with an amazing list of the galaxy of Saints, official and unofficial, let us remind ourselves what they did – they washed themselves in the blood of the lamb as children of God and made effort to remain ‘bona fide’ children of God. Let’s just begin by wanting to see Jesus as Zacheus did and acquiring other saintly dispositions that come from daily communion with him. May God help us to target the above 8 qualities of sainthood now that we are on earth.
Happy Sunday dear friends and happy All Saints Day!