All Saints Day 2016
In spite of the political chaos that surrounds us these days, I woke up quite happy this morning. It is All Saints Day, and I always find that a cause for joy, and hope. There are many aspects to this feast day, rejoicing in all the saints, not just those marvelous friends of God who have been canonized by the Church for our imitation and praise of God, but all the “ordinary” saints who now shine among the stars of heaven. Of course, in heaven there are really no “ordinary” people in the sense that we use that word in this world. They are all now quite extraordinary examples of God’s grace because Jesus tells us that his grace transforms our weakness into holiness.
But I like the word ordinary in terms of their lives in this world. Most of the saints were not recognized during their lifetimes is extraordinary; they did not perform miracles; they did not suffer martyrdom for the faith; they were not even extraordinary examples of virtue in most cases. Yet their faith made them extraordinary in comparison to most people in this world. Yet there extraordinary inner life of faith and charity is not as visible as that of the canonized saints; it was innocence hidden beneath their ordinary life which in many ways was indistinguishable from other good people around them. They worked at various employments like others, they wore the same respectable clothes as others, they the same food and follow the customs of their people, at least the good customs, just like others around them.
But there was something deeper, often hidden by their very human flaws and even sin. They had an interior life which is directed toward God as their final end. So when they sinned, they repented before God and did penance unresolved to change their lives. That repentance alone made them very different from most men in this world. But there was more. They worshiped God, sometimes less faithfully than other times, but they never called their infidelity virtue or sunless. They gave alms to make up for their sins and they were charitable towards their neighbors needs, even when they didn’t particularly like them or weren’t particularly liked by them. They placed their hope in God not in their own strength or character. They were grateful for God’s blessings. Thanksgiving was a way of life not just a day in the calendar.
The true greatness of God’s grace is manifested in the fact that it is not restricted to the heroic in this world, but is offered to everyone and can transform everyone into a saint, in heaven at least. That truth gives us all hope that life cannot defeat us in the end, if only we cling to God. He will bring to completion the good work that he began in us at baptism, if we have faith enough to take advantage of the great means of salvation that he offers us through Christ and His Church.
It’s really wonderful to think of the saints in heaven as the shining stars that render glory to God each in its own particular way. Each saint is a story of God’s creation and grace. Every single person’s soul is directly created by God, which like DNA makes each one of us a unique image or reflection of our Creator. Likewise, the grace that God gives to each person, while it has its origin in one principal, the Holy Trinity, is uniquely designed to bring out the uniqueness and glory of each created image of God. That is an essential part of the happiness of heaven, which in addition to seeing God face-to-face, offers us the vision of an infinite variety of his beauty and glory reflected in the multitude of saints.
One of the mysteries of heaven that has always challenged me, is how we could know this great multitude of saints in any personal way in heaven. How is that possible, and yet the great doctors of the church teach us that the essential part of the joy of heaven will be communion with the saints. I’m afraid this mystery will remain until the next life, but it seems to me one thing is for sure, that we will somehow see how each one of these persons and their lives glorified God in this world, and continue to glorify him in heaven. It’s really not all that important that I get to know St. Thomas Aquinas on a one-to-one basis someday, but that I come to understand more and more how his life and love gave glory to his creator. And surely we will see this with regards to all the saints in heaven. In the end, beatitude all has to do with the glory of God, the intrinsic glory of the Trinity, and the extrinsic glory of God found in his saints and in his creation as a whole.
So that’s why I woke up happy today. It’s like when I wake up happy every Christmas. I’m happy because God was born into our world in a stable in Bethlehem. On December 8 I wake up happy because Mary was conceived without Original Sin and remain without said all her life; and one day I will also be sinless with no evil touching my soul. For Mary it began on this earth, for us it begins in heaven. And I wake up on all souls day happy because I trust very much that my deceased family members and friends are now shining like the stars in heaven, or soon will be by God’s mercy; and I look forward with hope to sharing their glory and the glory of God which are the same thing in different respects. St. Bernard said that we shouldn’t hesitate to seek for this glory, for in doing so we are only seeking God and not ourselves apart from God. Happy All Saints