Sunday, November 1, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints

It is November 1st. Today is the Solemnity of All the Saints. All Hallow's Eve or "Halloween" has passed. On Halloween, humanity acts silly just for fun. To me, this represents the human in its immature state as it is transformed into a holy state leading to November 1. There is a transition from the immature sinner (Halloween) to the holy mature saint (Nov 1 - All Saints day). On this day we remember and honor all the Saints who have fought the good fight and won in Jesus' name (Romans 8:37, 1 Corinthians 15:57).  They removed the "costumes of Earthly life" and put on Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24, Romans 6:6, Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27).  There are so many Saints we can read about and whose lives of virtue we can imitate in order to achieve Christian perfection.  Unfortunately, I cannot write about each saint here because then this post would be extremely long.

This celebration has taken place in the Church since the 4th century. However, it was not a universal feast until Pope Gregory IV had it established as such and moved it to November 1st.  We all are called to be Saints (Acts 9:13).  In this world that is full of moral confusion, evil, despair, and depression, we can look to the Saints who faced similar things but never gave up or gave in to temptation. We must be friends with them and greet them (Philippians 4:21). They are a cloud of witnesses who have gone before us (Hebrews 12:1).

We can pray to them and ask for their intercession before Our Lord and they will offer our prayers before Him (Revelations 8:3-4).  Praying to Saints does not mean that we worship them or give them the same status as Jesus who is the Sole Mediator to God the Father (Hebrews 12:24, 1 Timothy 2:5).  Rather, we offer dulia, or a special respect and honor that is given to those who are Saints.  Only God gets latria or worship, no one else.  We see in the Gospel of John how Mary demonstrated how the saints pray to Jesus (John 2:1-12). She interceded on the part of those guests in the wedding.  Jesus did as she had asked showing the power of her intercession.

In the first reading, we read from the mysterious book of Revelations. The Apostle John is on the island of Patmos, Greece and sees the visions while there.  He writes them using apocalyptic language or a genre that uses hyperbole, vivid imagery and symbolism to convey messages. Our reading describes angels, seals, a great multitude, the Lamb, elders and so on.  These images are symbols of heaven.  The angel places seals on the foreheads of the servants of God. this is why the Catholic Church teaches that the Sacraments leave an indelible mark on us making us "property of God," so to speak (CCC 1272, 1280). Our names are written in the book of life until we manage to remove it via our sins (Revelation 20:15).  The one hundred and forty-four thousand is often mentioned by religious sects such as the Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses.  They claim that this number reflects those who will be saved among themselves; however, this is false. The number actually represents those saved from Israel - the twelve tribes. God has never forgotten His people (Isaiah 49:15). Even when they deny Christ came, He still is with them because He is a faithful God (1 Corinthians 1:9). However, not all of them will be saved. Only "144,000" will be saved. I use quotations around the number to quote the number mentioned but will explain why it is not exactly that number shortly. This number comes via the mathematical expression 12,000 x 12 (Tribes of Israel - Genesis 49:28). Now this does not mean that literally only 144,000 will be saved. The number 12 and many other numbers in the Bible have specific meanings.  This is called the gematria.  The number 12 means perfection, full government, completion, and God's authority. It is mentioned over 180 times alone in the Bible and over 20 in Revelations. Remember, Jesus called 12 men to be His disciples and now we know why based on the gematria. Anyhow, the 144,000 symbolizes a complete or perfect number of Jews that will be saved for being faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Noah, Moses, David and so on.  We do not know exactly how many will be saved because that is God's job. However, it will be a good number of them based on this calculation in Revelations.

Furthermore, as we continue reading, the Scripture tells us of a great multitude that no one could count. This multitude comes from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  Who do you think these people represent?  If you guessed the Catholic Church, then you are correct. This verse is referring to the Church (Militant, Triumphant, and Suffering) composed of her saints living and deceased. These are the "Catholic" people or the universal people who come from all over the globe (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, CCC 830-831). The Church is not a "White," "Black," "Latino," "Red," "Brown," or "Asian" Church.  Christ's Church is a "Catholic" Church open to all from every walk of life, every nation, every gender, every age etc. The white robes represent our cleanliness, the robe of salvation which we received at baptism and tried hard throughout life to keep it spotless via the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist or the "Blood of the Lamb" (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 7:14). The palm branches represent Palm Sunday demonstrating that we are triumphant in Jesus Christ. We raise our branches and shouted, "Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb" (John 12:13). Who is this "Lamb?"  Jesus of course!  Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world; sound familiar (John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19)? Next, we read of the angels and elders who prostrated themselves before the throne. These elders represent the saints and the apostles who pray for us before the Lamb (Revelations 5:8).  We must fight the good fight in order to be part of this multitude by longing to see God's face as we read in the Psalm today (1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 4:7).

In the responsorial Psalm, we are reminded that everything belongs to God (Hebrews 2:10-18). He created it all. This world reminds us of God's majesty (Romans 1:20). No one is entitled to God. Who can climb His mountain?  The Psalm answers this by telling us that the holy do. Only those who are clean, without vanity, free from sin will be able to freely ascend the Lord's mountain. This is not a literal mountain. The author used the biggest thing he saw to make a point and that was a mountain.  We must be faithful to God so that we can be called children of God as the second reading tells us.

God loves us so much that we can dare call ourselves His children. Think about this. You, me, all of us are children of God, THE GOD (1 Thessalonians 5:5). The creator of space and time, matter and whatever else is out there that we have yet to imagine or discover that would leave scientists in a catatonic state. As children of God, we must behave as such (Ephesians 5;8). Jesus tells us how with His Sermon on the Mount.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks to the people from up the mountain. He is free from sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and is God (John 1:14) so of course He can "ascend the mountain." From this mountain, He calls to us to come and tells us how with this awesome sermon.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

We are indeed blessed if we are poor in spirit; denying ourselves and putting God and others before us (Mark 10:44-45). We are indeed blessed if we mourn and share in the suffering of others (Hebrews 13:3).  We are indeed blessed if we are meek (Ephesians 4:2), seek justice (Matthew 6:33), are merciful to others (Luke 6:36), are clean of heart (Psalm 51:10), seek peace (Psalm 34:14), suffer for His name, accept whatever may come because of His name and so forth (Matthew 10:22). Being Catholic is just not only about going to Mass and then walking out as if nothing happened. It is not a duty that we have to complete every week. Instead, we are to take what we learn in the Word and with the strength we get from the Bread of Life, go out to the world to evangelize, call others to repent by being merciful and loving.

This is what the word "Mass" means.  It means to "go out." This "go out" is not like saying "get out of here." It means that we have received what we needed and must go out and work in the vineyard of the Lord (Matthew 20:1-16). Our saints did exactly this. They were not perfect. Many of them had some interesting lives, but they repented and God transformed them. Did they doubt? Yes.  Did they complain? Yes. Did they suffer? Yes. Did they give up? No way!  They fought the good fight, ran the race and received a crown that does not wither (1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 4:7, 1 Corinthians 9:25).  These saints are with Jesus now and pray for us.  Protestants often state that the dead cannot pray for us. They ignore the fact that when we are baptized, we become part of Christ's body and death itself cannot separate us from Christ's body (Romans 8:38-39, Galatians 3:27, 1 Corinthians 12:13.  Therefore, though St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Therese, John Paul II etc may be dead, physically speaking.  They are still part of the body of Christ and pray for us because we are to pray for one another as the Scripture say (James 5:16, 1 Timothy 2:1, 2 Corinthians 1:11).

I invite you to read about the Saints and chose one or several who you can relate to.  See how they personified today's Gospel by living the beatitudes.  Try to apply their example into your life and ask them to help you become more Christ-like. The Saints are our friends - our brothers and sisters in God's family.

May all the Saints in heaven pray for us here on Earth and the souls in Purgatory.  May Jesus Christ be praised!


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