“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” (Revelation 7: 9-10)
Today, the Christian world, especially the Catholic Church, celebrates the Feast of All Saints. The Church remembers all those who are saints; those officially recognized by the Church and those who are unknown but to God. The Church believes that when we die, our souls are in need of purification before we can enter into heaven. This purification takes place in purgatory. There are those, however, because of how well they lived the Gospel life, are admitted into heaven; come face to face with God, and experience perfect happiness. These individuals are considered saints.
How does one become a saint; the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, the Beatitudes shows a starting point for one to begin the process. So is living the two greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22: 37-39). To become a saint is no easy task; it requires a radical interior change, a conversion. Trying to do it on our own is impossible. But we are not alone, God is with us. If we open our hearts to him, he will give us the strength, the grace, to achieve the goal of sainthood. Jesus Christ, coming to us in the Eucharist, gives us the food for this journey; the Holy Spirit gives us the guidance, the inspiration to continue the journey.
There is no measure that will tell us how successful we are. We can only continue to strive to live the teachings of Jesus, to strive, through prayer, to be in a close relationship with God. And we must accept the fact, that there will be times when we will fail. There will days of dryness, disappointments, feelings of failure. It is at moments like these, that the lives of saints can be a source of inspiration for us. In particular, those biographies that reveals both the successes and failures of a saint trying to live the Gospel; because we can identify with them. We can learn how they overcome their obstacles, and begin thinking about starting again.
I like to think of the communion of saints, something like those crowds of people gathered at the end of a race. They have run their race; and now they are calling out to us, urging us on to the finish line.
“Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord,
a reward from the God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob. “(Psalm 24)