Happy All Saints Day!
Nov. 1 marks the celebration of the Feast of All Saints, when the whole Church honors the men and women who are in heaven after living an exemplary life of holiness and virtue on earth, and others who unselfishly offered their life in heroic sacrifice for their love of God and others in imitation of Christ. Their lives are a great inspiration for us, worthy of admiration and imitation. Pope Francis compared them to “the Church windows which allow light to enter in different shades of color. The saints are our brothers and sisters who have welcomed the light of God in their heart and have passed it on to the world, each according to his or her own ‘hue.’ But they were all transparent; they fought to remove the stains and the darkness of sin, so as to enable the gentle light of God to pass through. This is life’s purpose: to enable God’s light to pass through; it is the purpose of our life too.” (Angelus, Saint Peter’s Square, Nov. 1, 2017)
The saints were not perfect persons who never committed any wrong. They were not born a saint, but struggled to become one. They were ordinary men and women like us who were once sinners but, through the power of the Holy Spirit, found conversion of heart and transformation of their life. Their conversion did not just happen overnight but was the result of being faithful to God through a long, challenging and difficult struggle with temptations, sin and living rightly and virtuously. In other words, as Oscar Wilde wrote, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
This feast day does not only honor those whom the Church officially has recognized, canonized or declared blessed, but also those unknown to us who, with their good life, have reached their destiny in heaven.
However, it is also our feast day. The Church teaches that all of us are called to be saints. Pope Francis issued his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad, given March 19, 2018) reminding us of this call to holiness present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. God addresses each of us as He says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44). St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (1:4) declared that the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love.”
Our call to holiness comes not from ourselves but from the Sacrament of Baptism, in which God bestowed on us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the task to respond to that call with all our hearts. To help us grow in holiness, God also handed on to the Church other gifts, such as the Word of God in the Scriptures, the channel of grace in the sacraments, and the witnesses of the holy men and women who inspire us by their virtuous life and example. It takes only to open our life to the transforming power of God’s grace and the fruit is holiness.
However, we have a tendency to forget or to be indifferent to God’s call to holiness. Oftentimes, we put more emphasis on ourselves instead of leaning more on God, so we develop a wrong judgment of ourselves, seeing more severely our weaknesses, failures and sins and also conceiving a false notion of holiness as a kind of spiritual and moral perfection. So holiness seems unachievable and far from our reach. Many think it is reserved only for a select few – for bishops, priests, men and women religious and those in consecrated life. Others think also that to be holy is to withdraw from the daily affairs of life, give up family, professions and possessions in order to live like hermits and monks in isolation, solitude and constant prayer.
All Saints Day is a good wake-up call for us to live our life as God has designed it to be, that is, to be holy. Holiness is God’s universal call extended to everyone. Saints show us that holiness is none other than living our lives with great love for God and one another in whatever walk of life we find ourselves, like parents raising their children with immense love, men and women working in their professions diligently and responsibly, people in positions of authority governing with equality and the pursuit of the common good, medical personnel caring for the sick and the elderly, husbands and wives living out their marital commitment with fidelity and joy, and every one of us reaching out to the poor and needy with compassion and mercy.
In other words, called by God to holiness, we are considered saints in the making. Saints remind us what we can do and can become. They encourage us to follow in their footsteps and put our total trust in God. If we set our sights on Him and remain faithful, with His grace, we will one day join our Lord forever, together with the company of the great host of angels, virgins, blessed, apostles, martyrs and all the saints.
It is therefore important for each of us to open our life to God, to turn to him in every situation and utilize the grace of our baptism to bear fruit in the path of holiness. Let us honor the saints and invoke their intercession so that, with their prayers for us, we may like them remain faithful and steadfast in loving God and following His will in our life.
The Book of Revelation says, “They have come out of the great tribulation, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14) and “Their names are written in the book of life “(Rev 20:12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place.
Don’t be bashful; dare to be a saint! It’s what God has called us to be.