Feast of All Saints - Our Common Life

It is fitting that the Gospel for this feast of All Saints paints the picture of Jesus speaking the words of the Eight Beatitudes: Blessed are they… Each presents a theme which together comprise the roadmap of the path towards holiness.

thefeastofallsaints sThe figure that dominates each of these themes is that of Jesus Christ. It is His life, death and resurrection that the church celebrates throughout the liturgical year, beginning with Advent and moving through Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. It is the image of Jesus whom Paul describes as the Lord of history, working in and through his people down through the ages to bring the kingdom of God to its completion. We have been "marked with the seal" and we are truly "children of God."  It is Jesus who sparks the fire in the lives of those who have gone before us, and whom we call "the saints."

"Blessed are they..."  It is important to note that Jesus didn't say: "Blessed will they be..." Somehow those who have turned to Jesus, though they experience suffering and even persecution, are already “blessed." 

Looking at the beatitudes as a single unit, we find the ultimate description of the follower of Christ. This "blessed one," this "saint" has placed confidence and trust in God and not in any human power. Such a person might be poor in spirit but would be already rich in Jesus’ eyes, for that one’s life is in good hands, more secure than any other security they might try to provide for themselves. The one trusting and looking to God, is filled with a burning desire to see things right. The disciple is one “...who hungers and thirsts for holiness.” 

These are people, Jesus says, who have the reign of God already and have a passion to see things set right, to see life here reflecting God’s will for us and all people.

The feast of All Saints reminds us of our commonality. "Each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people; at the same time, there are no peoples without respect for the individuality of each person." - Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti.  Living the life of discipleship and stewardship is not something we can do alone. The Beatitudes make clear that our lives are defined, ultimately, not so much in terms of earthly or material accomplishments, not in terms of wealth or power, but above all by our willingness to recognize the face of God in each and all of our brothers and sisters - and to show compassion and concern for all, especially the neediest and most forsaken of them. 

We come to this feast in faith because we have learned to believe in, to hope in God's promise of eternal life. We know that hope, like faith, is a gift of God. We can't earn it; we can't arrive at it by intellectual searching. We must come to know and trust Jesus as our God-given way and truth and life. We must cherish every detail of the Gospel story and see how Jesus embraces every aspect of our earthly journey. We see him as fully human, nurtured in a family, loving and being loved, experiencing sadness, suffering and death in others - and then completing his mission on earth by accepting misunderstanding, false judgment, physical torture, and an agonizing death on a cross.

The Beatitudes encapsulate the whole Gospel message for us: Jesus, "God with us," has enfleshed these beatitudes, lives them to the fullness. We who accept him and his message have our lives transformed and our vision cleared. Now we see things in another perspective; we live in a trusting relationship to a God we know to be a loving parent who wants to establish a new human community among us.

Because of Him, we have a completely different way of seeing and living with one another.

Graphic: The Communion of Saints (detail), 2001 - by John Nava
Tapestries for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels - Los Angeles, California