1ST NOVEMBER 2022
THIRTY-FIRST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS
FIRST READING: REVELATION 7: 2 - 4, 9 - 14
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 24: 1 - 2, 3 - 4ab, 5 - 6 (R.) 6a
SECOND READING: 1ST JOHN 3: 1 - 3
GOSPEL: MATTHEW 5: 1 - 12a
Some time ago, a friend of mine asked me: “Why do you pray to dead people? The Bible teaches us that it is wrong to call on a dead person. In 1st Samuel Chapter 28, Saul consulted the spirit of Samuel through a medium at Endor and in fact, the outcome was not palatable.”
In my conversation with my friend, the first point I raised was that even though she refers to the saints as “dead people” our faith makes us believe that these are souls in heaven. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus concluded by saying, “for your reward is great in heaven” How else could we explain the reception of a reward in heaven if death makes a permanent end to one’s existence?
We know that when we die, our bodies are buried, and with time, it decays completely but we also know that there is something within us that cannot die; our soul. It is this soul that would either be rewarded eternally in heaven in God’s presence or end up in hell if we reject God.
Today, we are celebrating that great uncountable multitude of souls who are in God’s presence. We cannot simply call them “dead people” just as we cannot refer to the multitude in our first reading today as dead people. They must be more than just dead people if they can cry out and sing praises to God.
This brings us to the next point in our conversation: We do not pray to the saints rather we simply ask them to pray on our behalf. We only pray to God because He alone has the power to grant our requests but just as we ask our fellow humans (friends, colleagues, pastors, parents, etc.) to pray for us, we also ask the saints to pray for us. These prayers may be addressed directly to the saints but that does not make the saints equal to God neither does it mean we now worship the saints.
Again, asking the saints to pray for us is completely different from the action of Saul who consulted a medium (a person who is considered to be a channel between the earthly world and a world of spirits) to invoke the spirit of Samuel. In fact, we are doing the very opposite of what Saul did, because rather than consulting someone to help us connect with the saint, we are talking to the saint directly.
Also, bear in mind that Saul’s action happened in the Old Testament, that is, prior to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As such, Saul sought to wake Samuel’s spirit, today, we do not wake anyone’s spirit because we know the saints are alive in heaven. Jesus has now opened the way: “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
Our celebration today is premised on this fact; that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, that He wasn’t lying when He said that where He is, there we would be also; that in that place, there are so many Saints who are now enjoying forever. Our celebration today serves one purpose, to make us think of heaven and thereby increase our longing for heaven. Just as Peter, James, and John felt encouraged after the transfiguration experience, our celebration today is designed to encourage us to keep running the race knowing that where it leads is sure.
I guess that by now, some of us would be wondering: “When I die, would I also be celebrated as a saint?” Like Jesus said to the mother of James and John, “as for seats in my right and left, these are not mine to grant but would you be willing to drink of the cup that I am to drink?” In other words, it is not in our place to wonder whether others would remember us, all we must do is to ensure that we follow the path Jesus has traced for us; that we live according to the beatitudes contained in today’s Gospel passage; that we wash our robes clean – clean
of sin, clean of pride, clean of selfishness; that we love our neighbor as ourselves.