It was an inspirational moment as I entered a particular secondary school for the opening of the academic year program on 20th February 2019.
Students thronged the school hall in their numbers. Their faces glittering with smiles, with the expectation of an inspirational lecture that will ensure their success in life. The theme of that day is ‘hope for our future’.
‘What do you want to be in the future’ became my opening question for the day. Wow, many hands came on the air. Some were saying that they want to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer, politician, pilot etc. Of course, that was very nice.
Then I asked ‘what of after your life?’ A large voice from the back shouted: ‘Father, by then I am dead now, nothing again, it is of no need’.
While, A little boy in one of the junior classes raised His hands and said, ‘Father I want to be with God. The whole place was calm.
The truth is that sometimes we forget we have a destination. Therefore, we do not have time to think about it. I think after our earthly struggle, the next ambition must be to be with God at the end of our life.
The feast we celebrate today is a celebration of brothers and sisters who have reached that destination. They are now with God.
They are those who have triumphed over the tribulations of life and now in the presence of the Almighty God. It is also a celebration of hope for the living that something is awaiting us in the future.
Therefore, Our hope in life does not end in the physical world. There is also the future for the next life. Hence our struggle in life should not be limited to be an expert in any field but also to be with God at the end of our earthly lives.
St Paul captures this in the second reading when He says “we are now children of God but what the future holds for us, is yet to be revealed.
By that time we shall be like Him because we shall meet the Lord face to face. So today’s celebration is a reminder that we have a future to accomplish; to be with the Lord face to face.
The Feast of All Saints and Implication.
The derivation of the word Saint is from Sanctus, a Latin word. This word in Greek is “ἅγιος” (hagios), meaning holy.
Hence, this means something or somebody dedicated to God. The saints are those who are consecrated because they devoted themselves to the service of God.
As the little boy’s answered, they are those who spend their lives longing to be with God and at last they received their reward.
This feast is not just about only those recognised and canonised by the church but others who may be forgotten but are enjoying eternal bliss in the presence of God.
In essence, they lived their lives as exemplary models and hence we look up to them. Therefore, they are still part of the church and are called the church triumphant.
Today’s feast also reminds us of the belief that there is a powerful union between the saints and the living. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from death, He told Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life and He who believes in me, even though he dies will certainly live. And whoever believes in Him will never experience death’. (John 11:25-26). The saints though have experienced physical death, but are still alive.
Many biblical references assert the truth and validity of the existence of the saints.
We refer to a few of them. In Daniel 7, Daniel saw a vision of God’s holy people who are before the throne of the Ancient of Days attending to Him. God bestows on these holy people the power and greatness of God’s kingdom. (Daniel 7:18, 27).
In the first reading of today, John sees a vision of a great multitude standing in front of the throne, dressed in white robes and singing unto the Lord.
When John asks who they are, the angel tells Him that they are the people who passed through great trials and purified their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.
In Revelation 4:10, we see the twenty-four elders who are in the presence of God, worshiping Him. Also in Revelation 6:9-11, John sees a vision of those who go through persecution because of their testimony to the word of God and how they are singing praises before God.
In Revelation 8:3-5, we see the prayers of the saints rising like incense before God’s altar.
What do the Saints do?
1.In Luke 16:19–31, Jesus tells us the story of Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man.
This story validates the reality of the afterlife and what is awaiting us after our earthly sojourn. So the saints still live among us. The Church believes in total communion with the saints. They are not dead.
2.In Hebrews 12, after the author of Hebrews lists the men and women who are commended of their faith in Hebrews 11, He asks the community to throw off every sin that entangles them because they are now surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
Therefore, they are constantly watching us. They surround us especially at the Holy mass and even when we pray.
3.In all the biblical references about the saints in the presence of God, we can see that they are continually in God’s presence and doing nothing but worshipping Him.
In Revelation 6:11, they are constantly praying that their numbers will remain complete. So they have our concerns at heart and want us to be like them.
4.In Revelation 8, we can see how the prayers of these holy people rise like incense before the throne of God. James 5:16 stated that the prayers of the righteous are very powerful and effective.
5. In talking about the saints, the scripture says in Revelation 22:5 “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever”.
Therefore, they are continually in the presence of God. God has placed them on higher position, to look into the affairs of men, through our Lord Jesus Christ. The implication is that the saints are still alive and have been given the power to also interfere in the affairs of men.
The saints care, pray, intercede, watch and surround us. We are in communion with them.
Now, Since they are still alive, and care and pray for us, their prayers are very effective. We simply need their prayers.
The Saints Can Pray for Us
1.Firstly in James 5:16, there is an injunction to pray for one another. Since the saints are still our brothers and sisters who have transcended before us. So there is nothing wrong asking them to pray for us.
Many mistakenly think that an intercessory prayer offered by a saint undermines Jesus’ status as our sole mediator. They cite 1 Timothy 2:5 that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
2.So many times Paul asks the holy people of God to pray for Him ( Philippians 1:19, Romans 15:30, 2 Thessalonians 3:2 etc). Even in the same letter to Timothy, Paul requests that prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for all people (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and that people will lift holy hands in prayer (I Timothy 2:8) without anger or dissension.
God asks King Abimelech to tell Abraham to intercede for him so that he can live because Abraham is a prophet. (Gen. 20:7).
3. Jesus teaches His apostles how to pray (Luke 11).
What it means is that we do not threaten Jesus nor offend Him when we imitate him by praying for others. Nor is He angry when His saints pray for us.
If we can ask people who are still on earth to pray for us, there is nothing wrong to ask those who are constantly in God’s presence to pray for us.
1.Let us ponder a little and ask. “What is our aspiration in life.? Take a pen and paper and list all the aspirations we have in life. Is there any place for God?
In life, we have many aspirations. We want to be great, popular, successful etc? What of to be a saint? What are we saying about our afterlife?
The truth is that among all the aspirations we may have in life, God demands that we do not lose our souls.
2.The way to sainthood is stylishly captured in the gospel. It begins with our journey to the mountain, to encounter Jesus.
Mountain depicts a place of divine encounter in the Hebrew’s understanding. So it is a life of total communion with God. Just like the sermon on the mount, it is developing a sincere relationship with the Lord, always coming to His presence, and listening to his word.
3.Like the gospel, The saints are those who are blessed. They are the poor in spirit. Their hearts are not restrained with hatred, grudges, wickedness etc., So, they are the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the merciful.
They place their entire hope and faith in God. They are those who mourn and undergo persecution for the sake of the gospel. The saints are those who seek purity of hearts.
4.The saints are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They know it is only those who do the will of God will enter heaven (Mt 7: 21). So, they constantly seek for it.
The saints are those who are not hardened at the heart but always merciful and forgives every deed done to them.
In a world ruled by hatred, conflicts and divisions, they still let go and forgive. They do not entertain guilt, bitterness and anger in their heart. They are always inspired by love, peace and unity.
5.What is our hope for the future? How are we preparing for it? In essence, there is still hope now that we live. Many saints today are past sinners.
St. Paul was a murderer. Even St. Olga of Kyiv was a cold torturer and murderer. St. Vladimir worshipped false gods, was barbaric and full of immorality. Then St Matthew was a tax collector and must have collected bribes in his own time.
St Mary of Egypt was a very known prostitute and delighted in seducing handsome men. Also, St Augustine was known for his wayward life. Etc. Yet they changed their lives. Therefore, we have to change our pasts and seek holiness.
In Matthew 16:26, Jesus asks us “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?“
Therefore, the feast of all the saints is a call to change, a call to holiness and call to be like God.
6.The lesson is simple; despite how dark our pasts are, We can still change. Despite how people have hurt us and how we have grieved because of the mistakes of the past, God can touch our hearts again. There is still hope for the future. So let us begin the journey now that we have the opportunity. Time waits for nobody. Eternal life is real.
May God bless you and grant us the grace of sainthood. May He forgive our pasts and bless our future. Amen
Happy Feast Day
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