All Saints

Published on 30 Oct 2020
Statues of saints at St Peter's basilica

The heavenly Jerusalem is our mother, where the great array of our brothers and sisters already gives you eternal praise [1]. 

All the saints are in the presence of God.  They see him, they praise him, they pray to him for us. They are so many intercessors [2].  I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne [3].  Close to throne of grace, the throng of saints contemplate the vision of God.  By his loving generosity, into that vision come our concerns and prayers, borne in the concern for our salvation[4] of these holy men and women.  Heaven is understood as a temple into which the faithful hurry to converse with God and to express the needs of the world.  Those needs, with all their urgency and drama, from our perspective, are woven into prayers, which participate in the serenity of God himself. If there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus [5].

The Lord guides our prayers so that we ask in the right way and for the right things.  The saints, faithful disciples of Christ, are diverse models for thinking like him. Jesus schools our heart so that we want and seek what he wills.  By imitating him, we allow ourselves to be made ready for heaven.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies us, by making our reactions those of the Lord himself. To be as pure as Christ [6].

Being like him, is being like God.  What we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is that is when it is revealed we shall be like him, because we will see him as he really is [7].  The heavenly vision of God is linked not only to the intercessory work of all saints but also to the kind of life which, with the help of grace, we are living now.  We are already the children of God [8] and, despite our frailty, we are already launched on the ambitious programme of permitting ourselves to be turned into saints.  A communion and fellowship joins us to those who have succeeded.  Thanks to this communion, we are, even now, entranced by that vision of the divine which preoccupies the saints.  O blest communion, fellowship divine.  We feebly struggle, they on glory shine: Yet all are one in Thee for all are Thine [9]

The communion of all the saints helps us to live as we should.  If we are to share the vision which the saint enjoy, we seek, with the same kind of help which they received, to follow the patterns they establish of God-focused living. With so many witnesses in a great cloud on very side of us, we too, then should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily [10].  The saints, in their great variety, inspire us to virtue and goodness.  We are disciples. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection [11].  He came into the world to bring us to his Father.  He achieves by his won work and also by allowing us to work with him. Christ converts us to faith him.  This conversion he allows to be seen in the better ways of living at which we arrive with his help.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God [12]. The beatitudes encourage us very much both in a better way of living and in our seeking the intercessory support of all the saints. There are various kinds of holiness, various kinds of beatitude, many different saints and they are all accommodated in the presence of God.  To see God.   Our attention to him and our seeking the vision of him is sincere.  We believe that he desires to be known by us and that his grace helps us to do so, always respecting our freedom.  We are all the time being helped towards that purity of heart and vision, which allows God to be the centre of our life.  His helping us to be attentive enough see him clearly continues after our death. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven [13]. Included among those who see God as saints, are those who have been purified by him for that purpose. They have endured great suffering. They have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb [14].

Of what do hearts need to be purified so that we may be able to see God when he calls us to himself? There seems to be room in God’s own attention for much that preoccupies us:  our love of others; our hopes and prayers; our worries and concerns.  However, we are distracted from God by good things and by bad.  The bad we must certainly jettison.  The pure in heart have been purified of their sins, their disordered desires and their debilitating anxieties. All the saints have learned to focus on God.  The saints entirely at home in their praising of him and in their perpetual contemplating of him.  They are doing what they have long wanted to do and that for which they were prepared. We who are called to be saints and our brothers and sisters who are enduring suffering and purification are trying to succeed in the same lesson.

The holiness, the beatitude of a saint is a concentration on God which does not neglect our family, our work or our world.  There is much that is good to think about, much to exercise us, much to move our heart.  God loves all of this and our progress lies in approaching all those old worthwhile preoccupations of ours from the angle of God’s love.  We love our family as he loves them.  We apply ourselves to our enthusiasms as he uses them to draw us to knowledge of him.  We work for God as well as for our employer or ourselves.  With his help we end up giving, not less of ourselves to them because of our first duty to him, but more.   In concentrating on God, trying to see him in prayer, the sacraments and in faith, we do not so much withdraw from the world so much as begin to understand it properly. To love the world as God loves it: this is the ambition of our affections.  When we re-join all the saints, we shall be like God because we shall see him as he really is [15].  He has already made us like himself.  Our seeing him, our knowing him arises from our constantly giving thanks for the life that he has given us.

Within what has been revealed to us of God, our call to holiness makes itself heard. Our vocation draws us into the divine mystery. The process takes a lifetime yet there is about it a great urgency. We will only ever be properly at home when we are with all the saints before the throne of grace.  In the meantime we hasten to know God as well as we can.  We focus on him and we let his rivals be filtered out.  There is breadth of vision in this attention to God as well as single-minded-ness. The purity of heart, which God brings about in us, is generous and loving in its attention to his work.  God is doing so much and he shares with us his energy.  Blessed are the pure of heart for they are empowered by God to see him.  Blessed are the pure in heart for God shows them how to love him and his brothers and sisters.  Blessed are the pure in heart because God enables them to understand all things through him.   Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven [16].

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              The Roman Missal, Solemnity of All Saints, Preface ‘The glory of Jerusalem our mother’
[2]              The Roman Missal, Solemnity of All Saints, Collect
[3]              Apocalypse 7.9
[4]              The Roman Missal, Solemnity of All Saints, Prayer over the Offerings
[5]              Philippians 4.6-7
[6]              1 John 3.3
[7]              1 John 3.2
[8]              1 John 3.1-2
[9]              William Walsham How 1823-1897 ‘For All the Saints’ 1884, verse 7
[10]            Hebrews 12.1
[11]            Hebrews 12.2
[12]            Mathew 5.8
[13]            Matthew 5.12
[14]            Apocalypse 7.14
[15]            1 John 3.2
[16]            Matthew 5.12