Today, we celebrate the solemnity of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. They now constitute the members of the Church triumphant in heaven, where with the angels, see God face to face. Like us, they lived here on earth and experienced the challenges of this life, as we now do. As they have been through the passage way of death, they have now seen light at the end of the tunnel.
St. John, banished to the Island of Patmos was shown a huge crowd which no one could count from every nation, race, people and tongue, who stood before the throne and the Lamb, dressed in long white robes. They were holding palm branches in their hands, symbolizing their martyrdom on earth. They are now singing the praises of God in heaven, ceaselessly crying out in a loud voice: “Salvation is from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb!” This was the vision of the heavenly Church that St. John saw, in which all the angels and the elders and the whole heavenly court were worshiping before the throne of God, singing God’s eternal praises, glory, wisdom, offering their thanksgiving, and honoring the powerful and mighty One. Those that were among the Church triumphant in heaven, were those who have survived the great period of trials; and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Among them were the patriarchs, the Old Testament prophets, priests, wise-men and women, kings, inter-testament figures, apostles, martyrs, evangelists, holy men and women, confessors, heroic men and women, virgins and different saints of all categories. They included those that were canonized and those not canonized. They constitute the cloud of witnesses all around us.
What makes them distinct is that, they followed Jesus so closely and perfectly as disciples. They listened with the disciples’ ear and patterned their lives after that of Jesus Christ, putting his teachings into practice. Their lives patterned after that of Christ, is spelled out for us by Jesus in the beatitudes, which perfect the Torah, and sets forth God’s grace in the past, the present, and future, formulating God’s will, centered in the demands of love. Although, the poor are those whose poverty is real economic poverty, their blessedness comes from God’s special care for them, because they acknowledge their dependence on him. At the same time, those who leave everything, for the sake of the kingdom of God, in order to follow Jesus, who emptied himself to become poor, so as to enrich us, are the poor in Spirit. The lot of Christians, who strive to remain faithful in the face of opposition, are those who mourn. Just as the way we live now, determines the way we will live in the after-life, the beatitudes stress both the present and the future of the kingdom of God, a small beginning now, to be consummated fully in the future. In this way, the Christians inherit in virtue of their adoption and union with Christ, the true Son and heir. The Christians should adopt positive attitude towards peacemaking, based on the conduct of God and the example of Jesus Christ. The beatitudes spell out the life and experiences of Jesus, as followed and lived out, by his disciples, which reflect the experience of persecution in the life of Jesus and in the Church.
All the saints whose solemnity we celebrate today, who constitute the Church triumphant, replicated the life, death and resurrection of Christ. They are friends of Christ, who bore witness to Jesus in word and in deed, in life and in death, who now live perpetually seeing him face to face in heaven. They bore witness to the love of Christ for the Father and for humanity in the Holy Spirit. It was by his Spirit and grace that they became heroic both in life and in death.
Looking at the greatest proof of God’s love for us, in the gift of his Son, who became one of us, so that in him, we can become his children by adoption, St. John exclaims, and tells us that, as in fact, we are his children now, what we shall later be has not yet come to light. When that comes to light, we shall be like him, as we shall see him as he is. With this hope, let us keep ourselves pure, just as he is pure. May God give us the Spirit and grace to become saints, together with all the saints in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Master, now and forever. Amen.