Fun and festivity. This could be the theme of today’s holy day. We are ALL called to be saints! That’s what we celebrate today. We the Church celebrate all who have died who are now with God and “see him as he is” (St. John).
Last year, when I was on sabbatical, I arrived in Rome during a canonization weekend. I strolled into St. Peter’s Square around 10 PM on a warm on Friday evening in October. I was amazed to see so many pilgrim groups still in the Square, holding picnics on the steps of the Bernini colonnade. There was such a sense of fun and festivity. I mentioned this to a brother priest, and he said: “Yes, people enjoy celebrating their Saints.”
Today, when we say All Saints – we include our family members who lived lives of love and service in their daily activities! They are part of that “great multitude” (First Reading from Revelation). We want to be part of them. Notice: the angels show us how to do our work. They cry “Blessing and glory … be to our God forever and ever.” Our primary work is to give glory to God with our lives: how we live our lives, even in the smallest acts of kindness toward another. In this way, we reveal some attribute of Christ’s personality, one of the gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit that shine through us. St Paul says that by God’s grace we are “conformed to the image of [his] son” (Romans 8).
The Book of Revelation says further that the great multitude of saints have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” We begin to do this washing here on earth by the way we serve God and others. The Eucharist strengthens us to do this. The Eucharist also takes away our sins. We say before we receive Communion: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” We ‘wash our robes’ in this way – or rather Christ washes them for us by his dying and rising. One saint calls receiving the Eucharist “our daily washing.”
We here at Saint Andrew are praising and serving God and washing our robes by doing what we are doing right now. Your God-given mission now is to care for your families and to serve the Church. It is to grow in God’s life by loving each other AND by making contributions to the life of Saint Andrew. These past weeks I have seen parishioners preparing for our coming Christmas Bazaar. It takes many hands to make it happen with so much fun and festivity. Each of us has special gifts. Serving with them leads to our own sanctification. God’s light shines through us as through a stained-glass window. This is living the Beatitudes of today’s gospel. Then when we die, after our purification, we join all the saints “who have done God’s will throughout the ages” as the Eucharistic Prayer says. We celebrate them all, and we want to join them. John Henry Newman, who was canonized just three weeks ago, prays for us to radiate Christ; to have the fragrance of Christ; that people see Christ in us. We pray for this today. If we wind up on a stained-glass window someday, well, glory to God! St. John Vianney told a woman wanting to snatch a piece of his clothing for a relic: “Woman, make one of your own!” Become a saint yourself. As we celebrate All Saints, we renew our desire to become saints ourselves. Fun and festivity indeed!