Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints (1st November, 2017) on the Solemnity
Rev (Apoc) 7:2-4.9-14;Ps 23:1-6. (R.cf. v. 6);
One day, a catechist was confronted by one of the First Holy Communion candidates during the catechism class with this question: “Sir, why do we serve God in this world?” Without reflection he retorted, “Why did God make you?” (CCD 2) The girl replied: “You told us that ‘God made us to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next’”. Her answer in the form of a reported speech signalled to the catechist that the problem might be deeper than he thought. Hence he asked her, “my dear, but why the question in the first place?” The girl quoted Revelation 7:1-8. It was then obvious to the catechist that the question was more than what he could handle and as a result referred the little girl to the parish priest.
Topic: You are Called to be a Saint.
Let us start by reaffirming that the Church as a family of God is of three states – the Church Triumphant (those already in heaven), the Church Militant (part of this family that are still here on earth), and the Church Suffering (our brethren who have left this world but were not as perfect as God wants and as a result are being purified where we call Purgatory). Today, the Church is celebrating that part of her that are already in heaven. These include the canonized and beatified and also those we never knew they made heaven.
Our topic is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans chapter 1 verse 7. As we celebrate these brothers and sisters of ours who are already in heaven, it is important also to note that the call to be Christians is a call to be saints. The bible especially the New Testament is full of examples. In his letters, Paul referred to Christians as saints, cf. Rom 1:7, 1Cor 1:2; 2Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:2 among so many others. Again when God called Ananias to go and baptize Saul whom he arrested on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), he replied: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). Furthermore, Paul in Acts of the Apostles while defending himself before Agrippa said that he (Paul) “shut up many of the saints in prison” (Acts 26:10).
Again, our call to be Christians is a call to be part of Christ, the head, the Church, cf. Acts 9:4; 1Cor 11:3; Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col 1:18; 2:10; 2:19. And this Christ is the fountain of holiness, cf. Heb 12:10; 1Thess 4:7; Eph 4:24; 2Cor 7:1. Therefore since Christians form the body of Christ the head, Christians have no option other than to be saints because the head and the members ought to be one. A Christian who is not a saint is a diseased part of the body and should be cut off, cf. Mal 2:11-12; Rom 11:22.
Having seen that we are called to be saints, let us consider just some of the things that the bible tells us about saints. Firstly, saints are God’s beloved (Rom 1:7) because they hate every form of evil and God in his turn preserves their lives and delivers them from the hand of the wicked, cf. Ps 97:10. The saints have an ultimate reward, “…the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever” (Dan 7:18). This kingdom the saints will enjoy forever is the one Saint Paul wrote about, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1Cor 2:9, cf. Is 64:4-5a, Eph 1:18). Hence, “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15) because they are going back to God. To what extent do we hate evil today?
Again, the saints will judge the earth, cf. Matt 19:28 as a result of which St. Paul wonders how far we judge our own affairs, cf. 1Cor 6:1-2. Christians today do not settle misunderstandings among themselves without going to court, ụmụnna, ụmụada, village meetings, native doctors, idols, among so many others. This reminds me of what happened in one of the parishes around. Two Christians had a misunderstanding. One of them went and reported the matter to a priest of an idol. But the other reported the matter to the Police. In the process the DPO asked them if they were Christians. They answered in affirmative and to buttress this point, the one who reported the matter to the idol brought out his bible. Hum! Remember, this is among those called to be saints who will judge the earth. How much do we share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Col 1:12) because the mystery (our Lord Jesus Christ) hidden for ages and generations has been made manifest to us, cf. Col 1:26?
Furthermore, saints also avoid sin. In the words of Saint Paul “…fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints” (Eph 5:3). Christ our head has condemned sin in the flesh, cf. Rom 8:3. Christians are called to walk in the Spirit which brings life and not in the flesh that brings death, cf. Rom 8:6. The Psalmist calls the saints of God to Love and fear the Lord for those who fear him have no want, cf. Ps 31:23, Ps 34:9. Our God is just and “will not forsake his saints” (Ps 37:28). The prayers of the saints rise to the throne of God mixed with incense, cf. Rev 5:8; 8:3-4).
Surely for some it is no longer possible for them to become saints. On the contrary, despite how bad one’s past was like, he/she can still be a saint. The First Reading tells us of the great multitude “who have come out of great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). My dear, no robe is too dirty for the blood of the Lamb. Hence for the Psalmist, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Ps 32:1-2). St. Paul also wrote that we, Christians are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, cf. Eph 2:19. Even the most saintly need prayers, cf. Eph 6:18. So let us pray for ourselves and never rejoice at our brothers/sisters failure. Heaven is for all. Saints are called to endure, cf. Rev 13:10; 14:12. But all those who have hope of enjoying with the saints in heaven must purify themselves, cf. 1Jn 3:3.
So my dear ones in the Lord, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles of the saints at Lydda, cf. Acts 9:32, of the Saints of Achaia (2Cor 1:1), Saints at Philippi (Phil 1:1), the saints at Colossae (Col 1:2) among others, can you be referred to as a saint in your parish/station/branch, and so on? If yes, rejoice for you are one of those we celebrate today and if no, thank God because you can still make the best out of what is remaining. Please, make the best of it. Delay is dangerous.
Bible Readings: Acts 9:10-14; Col 1:1-14; 1Cor 6:1-11; 1Thess 4:1-12; Rom 8:1-17; Rev 11:15-19.
Silent Prayer: Are you a saint or not?
Let us pray: Grace to you (all the saints of God) and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – Amen (cf. Rev 22:21, Rom 1:7).
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