We open our hearts and minds to the message of Jesus on this very special Sunday. This is the day we are all called to become saints, have communion with the Saints — not only with those who have gone before us, but even with those who come after us. Happy All Saints Day!
These days we hear so much of dark news, so much news that reminds us of death — not life. Media has led us to see the numbers of people who have disappeared from the world today. We see the numbers in millions who are infected. Thousands who died. It looks like a cloud of sadness took over the world.
It is so easy to lose the faith in ourselves, in humanity and dwell in the darkness. It is easy to go to the Bible, read the book of Job or read the book of Lamentations or the frightful apocalypse of the book of Revelation. That is not Christianity.
Christianity is the candle that dispels darkness. That light today is the celebration of the feast of All Saints Day. Happy All Saints Day. To heal us, to make us whole, today’s feast comes as an energizer during these dark days. It sets our clock of hope back to normal.
What is the message of this great feast?
In the eyes of God, our lives are immensely valuable. We are called to holiness. We are called to participate in the eternal glory with God, with the Trinity, with saints and all our family members and friends who have gone before us. We are called to celebrate life and light amidst all darkness through holiness. Jesus calls us “Be holy as your heavenly father is holy’ (Mt 5:48)
Historically, All Saints Day began as a commemoration of the martyrs who had died for their Christian faith. But over the years it has evolved into a day when we honor and remember all the saints — those who — in death — have joined the Church Triumphant, as well as the faithful saints of the present who serve Jesus Christ. All Christians are, at the same time, both sinners and saints — sinners because of our rebellious nature; saints because of our salvation in Jesus. This feast reminds us each one of us carry enormous capacity for good or evil. This feast calls us to choose good. Choose life by doing good, not death through evil. Become saints in this life and the life to come. Spread the Gospel of hope. Love is stronger than death. There is no death where there is love. That is the message we hear from All Saints.
Who are the saints?
They are the wonderful Christians who broke bread like us on this same altar in communion. They broke the word to the people through proclamation and witnessing. They are the people who are welcomed by the Lord as faithful servants.
Where are these saints now?
They are with God and we find the reality of their continued life through Him. The saints are a part of the Church. We worship with them. They attained the eternal reward of praising and glorifying the one True God. They worship the risen Christ face to face while we worship the same risen Christ under the veil of bread and wine at the altar. And in the living word, the Bible.
We also celebrate today who we are. We are not just flesh and blood. We are not some evolutionary animal. The Bible says: we are made in the image of God. St Augustine said that even the air that we are breathing came from God. We are not only made by God, we are made of God, because we carry his breathing in our body. We are part divine, part human. From womb to tomb and beyond the tomb we are sons and daughters of a living God, who not only lives in the heavens but in each one of us as the Emmanuel, the God who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Today’s feast calls us to: Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture Psalm 100:3
We are called to that holiness. We are sinners, true, but we are called to the holy life, to be saints, not only after death but even in this life. Because we are made to be holy, made to be saints.
St. Paul reminds us to live a life worthy of our calling to be saints, God’s children, saying: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” 1 Corinthians 6:19.
We are called to be such saints. Holiness dwells in each one of us. Today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation exclaims about the saints: These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Yes. Each one of us is washed in the blood of the Lamb of God. We are so worthy, so full of potential to become saints, we had to be redeemed not by Gold or silver but by the precious blood of the Lord.
Tomorrow we will be celebrating All Souls Day.
As Christians we strongly believe death is not the end of our life. Death is a transition to a wonderful life. Without this feast of All Saints Day, the celebration of All Souls Day becomes an exercise in self-pity and even horror of death. It will be tragic to see Christians only weeping and mourning without the thought of life. Love is stronger than death. That love will be united with those who have gone before us. This All Saints Day celebration prepares us to celebrate our transition into eternal life. Those who do not believe in that gather only in the cemetery to mourn. How hopeless they look! We should take them by the hand away from the grave out through the cemetery gate in through the door of the church and up the very altar itself and there put them in touch — not with the dead body of their loved ones — but in communion with a living soul who is with Christ at the altar. We are parts of the Christ’s Body, all of us, those living, those gone before us, those who will come after us.
As we celebrate this communion we are linked with heaven with the communion of saints, with our loved ones. Here at the altar we find our communion with the dead; for the altar is the closest meeting place between us and our Lord. That place must be the place of closest meeting with our dead who are in His keeping. We may encounter the mortal remains of our beloved ones in the cemetery. But the Church is calling us to encounter them spiritually in the altar, in the breaking of the bread and the breaking of the word. During these times of COVID which has kept our churches closed and our physical gathering apart, the feast of All Saints brings to us the great gift of mystical union with our Lord and one another a new journey of hope and love.
Every altar brings to our mind three eras: The past where our great ones have gone away and are at the feet of the living God worshipping him with an everlasting hosanna. When we hear the consecration words of Jesus, “do it in memory of me” we also bring the memory of our dear ones: Our parents, our brothers and sisters and our dear friends. We touch them through the altar. We are united in the communion of saints. Is this not a great feast? Is this not the celebration of Resurrection? Is it not the new heavens and new earth, spoken off in the Book of Revelation where God himself comes and has communion with us already on this earth?
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Book of Revelation: 21: 1-4
What great words during these pandemic times! Let us celebrate this joy of communion of saints, God dwelling amongst us. Life asserts over death.
Coming back to the Mass, the Communion, we are also united with one another, when we say: In him, through him and with him.
We are all united. In Him. We become the body of Christ. We may be many, but we are the body of Christ. And Christ is calling us to eternal banquet “Come and eat this is my body,” yes we are called upon to partake in the mystical body of Christ.
We are also celebrating our future Glory in this Eucharist. The Eucharist is the memory of the eschatological feat. Though the COVID has made the churches to be Holy Saturday empty tombs, creation is groaning and a new dawn and the resurrection of humanity to a better world will happen.
We are here to celebrate that hope today. All Saints Day is the hope generating day. Hope is the greatest need today. The world has buried more than a million people in the roller coaster rush of the COVID. It is not easy to believe in this is the era of death. For us Christians life does not end in the grave, we have the real life beyond the grave.
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
Yes, my brothers and sisters! Today is the feast of hope, feast of everlasting life. 2020 proved to be year of fear; year of despair; year of human beings reduced to numbers. All Saints comes as an antidote; as the vaccine of hope. We are not numbers; we are in the company of angels and saints.
How it thrills us when we hear the words of the liturgy: “Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.”
We are not in the darkness, my brothers and sisters, as often we think in times of challenges and when All Souls Day approaches. Our communion says we are in the company of Angels and Archangels and all our departed ones who are in the heavenly court. Our destiny is not the six feet grave but the heavenly cosmic courts of everlasting joy and praise. We are in communion with the Lord himself. I am the body of Christ I am a member of the body of Christ; I am a living cell in that spiritual organism, partaking of the life of the other cells, and sharing in the body of Christ himself.
Let us celebrate this feast with Joy for this Blessed Sacrament links us not merely to Bethlehem and Calvary but to the whole world beyond the grave as well, for at the altar the infinite is shrined in the finite; heaven stoops down to earth; and the seen and the unseen meet all saints.
Charles Bo is the president of Federation of Asia Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) and the archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.