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We are all called to be saints
This is the homily given by Archbishop Porteous on the Feast of All Saints, 2014
Today we lift up our eyes towards heaven, and contemplate the saints in glory. Today is the joyful Feast of All Saints.
Our minds are stirred to a vision of heavenly reality with the words given in the first reading from the Book of the Apocalypse, “After that 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 and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.”
In our imagination we can picture this scene: A sea of people: dressed in white: focussed on Christ, the Lamb. There before the throne those in heaven are able to see the glory and splendour of God.
This vast crowd, “impossible to count” as St John says, are those who have been faithful. They are the “ordinary” saints. People like those we have known.
During the year the Church holds before us individual saints. They are extraordinary people who have done extraordinary things in their lives for God. They inspire us. We seek their intercession.
But on this day of All Saints we are aware of the vast numbers who, as they meet the Lord, hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant, come and share your Master’s happiness”.
And the vision of St John in the reading today invites us to taste the exultant spirit of the saints. They cry out, “Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb”.
Triumph of the spirit
They have triumphed. They have triumphed over their own struggles, frailties. And finally they have triumphed over death. They are now experiencing the glory of being before the throne of God, seeing God “face to face”. Their hearts are full of joy and the focus of their joy is God Himself. They can’t help but praise Him.
Heaven is the triumph, too, of God. It is the triumph of the love and mercy of God. It is the triumph of the saving work of God. It is the triumph of grace over sin, of love over hate, of light over darkness, of life over death.
Today we can look up and think of heaven. It is good to do this because our daily experience on earth is one of struggle. We battle on. At times we may find it difficult to sense the presence of God.
It can seem at times that truth and goodness and right seem to be losing. Other powers appear more successful. Those who are believers seem to be impotent and count for nothing, while those who live for this world alone seem to be succeeding.
But on this day of All Saints we can lift our heads and think of future glory.
It is a day in which we are inspired by the example of the vast host of saints – the “cloud of witnesses” - to desire holiness of life. We are being reminded not to set our sights too low. For the Christian life is far more than just being good. We are called to be holy. We are called to be saints.
This was the magnificent cry of St John Paul II to the youth of the world – “Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium”. In saying these words he is simply echoing the teaching of Jesus himself who quoted the book of Leviticus: “Be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2).
For the World Youth Day in the year 2000 held in Rome St John Paul II said:
“Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace.
“To succeed in this demanding project of life, continue to listen to His Word, draw strength from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity.”
His words still resonate today. His wonderful invitation to young people is an invitation to all of us. We are destined to be saints. Now, we begin to live our holiness. We want to be saints. Now we will live as saints.
Archbishop Porteous is the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Tasmania.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 28 No 10 (November 2015), p. 12
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