First Reading Revelation 7:2-4, 9 – 14
Gospel Matthew 51 – 12A
It is believed that celebrating a Feast for all the Saints has its’ origin in the early centuries of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Local churches would celebrate Mass in remembrance of the martyrs from their area and as the number of martyrs grew they would commemorate several on one day. It is known that on May 13 in either 609 or 610 that Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome as a Christian place of worship. He dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs. The official practice of having an observance for all who died and are believed to be in the glories of Heaven followed from this. In the ninth century Pope Gregory the IV moved the date of the observance to November 1 and made it a celebration for the Universal Church.
This Solemnity leads to the question, “How does one became a Saint?” The Gospel gives us the answer. Very simply, if one wishes to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one should live the Beatitudes. Two of the Beatitudes end with, “for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”, and a third speaks of great reward in heaven.” The others are connected to the Kingdom. “They will be comforted.” We will find true comfort in the Kingdom. “They will inherit the land.” The land they will inherit is the Kingdom. “They will be satisfied.” Perfect satisfaction is entering the Kingdom. “They will be shown mercy.” Divine Mercy flows from the Kingdom. “They will be called children of God.” We are God’s children and our home is in the Kingdom.
Living the Beatitudes involves keeping our eyes fixed on the Kingdom of Heaven as our ultimate goal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Heaven with these words. “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” CCC 1024 This is beautiful definition! Who wouldn’t want to go to Heaven?
As we look forward to Heaven we cannot ignore the reality of the here and now. We are not living “the perfect life” and we are not in that state of “supreme, definitive happiness.” Through Jesus Christ the Reign of God came upon us, and through Baptism we became citizens of Heaven and under God’s Reign. This leads us back to the Beatitudes and the importance of being mindful of them. As citizens of Heaven with our eyes fixed on the glories of heaven as our destiny, we have the responsibility to live by the Kingdom. We have the call to be mindful of and care for the; poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted for the sake of righteousness, the victims of persecution and injustice. The beatitudes are a litany of those who are heading towards the kingdom, and of those whom we should look out for so as to give them the encouragement and help they need.
As we honor the saints who have gone before us and are now enjoying the perfect life in Heaven, let us be mindful that this is our goal. Each day is another day on that journey, and we are another day closer to our goal. May we know Him, love Him and serve him here, so as to be happy with Him in Heaven.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.