“Feast of All Saints,” Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Called to be Holy.”
We have not come from nothing in order to return to nothing. God does not play about with his creatures; he has a plan for each one of us, our ‘Final Destiny’.
Today’s readings reveal the divine plan that God has for us: he calls each one of us to share his holiness, and introduces us into his own world.
The first reading gives us encouragement for our future: we shall enter a new world, where every form of death will be excluded.
The second reading reminds us that the divine life, which will be manifested when we leave this world, is already present in us now.
In the Gospel, the ‘Beatitudes’ tell us how to behave as we wait to meet Christ. We are in a period of gestation and it would be foolish to fasten our hearts to the things of this world as if they were to be ours forever. Christ is telling us to use them to store up love, to transform them into a gift.
Nowadays, saints are seen less as intermediaries and more as brothers and sisters, loved and praised, who pray with us to the same Father.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14.
Today is the feast of the whole Christian family. Today’s feast asks all of us to take stock of the gifts that the Father has given us: we have become members of the divine family through Christ, and we have received his Spirit, and his holiness. Holiness is not a state that we can achieve by our own efforts, it’s not the fruit of heroism, it is a downright gift from God when we become one with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to carry out God’s will.
The first reading invites us to lift up our eyes and to contemplate the state of holiness the Father has prepared for us. The Book of Revelation is a book of encouragement addressed to Christians in a time of persecution. Through a series of visions and teachings from God, the author leads his contemporaries to deepen their hope, to take reassurance of a future full of happiness, an eternal state of being loved and cared for by the Lord, whose power will bring about the ultimate victory. The verses that the lectionary presents for this feast come in the midst of the description of a long series of disasters that await the world. Our verses are a kind of interlude in the description of the disasters. They deal with God’s elect.
There are two distinct visions in today’s reading. The first vision deals with those who are members of God’s people still on earth. They are vulnerable, but because they belong to the Lord, they will be protected by the power of God. Their number is vast, a mystical immensity of 144,000.
The second is about multitudes. They show us a multitude of holy persons striving, under God’s protection, to be faithful on earth. They show us an even greater multitude of saints in heaven. God’s love and God’s grace are extended to multitudes, multitudes on earth and multitudes in heaven.
At the end of the vision of the sixth seal, which described as the day of the Lord, a break in the story allows us two glimpses of the mercy of God. The first describes 144,000 of God’s servants being sealed, or marked (7:1-8). ‘Sealing and Counting’ expresses possession. Both actions signify that followers of Jesus belong to God. He has us in his care. In its most fundamental understanding, baptism means you have the seal. There are and have always been theological arguments about the innocent babies and good pagans who do not have the seal. Our loving God casts a bigger net, baptism, we might say, is the easy part, walking in the way and in the light of Christ is the real challenge.
Indeed, without his love and protection we could not endure the difficulties we face. The roster of God’s servants (7:4-8) suggests they are marshalled as an army. This army conquers with the Lamb and in the same way he did, by sharing in his faithfulness to God and his self-sacrificing love. The second describes those saved by the blood of the Lamb, the dominant image of Christ in this book. These men and women carry palm branches (7:9) – a sign of martyrdom. The Greek word ‘martus’, which gives us martyr, means “a witness in court.” These men and women bore witness in the courtroom of the world that Jesus is Lord. Not only are their palm branches, but also they themselves, are symbolic. As martyrs they represent not only those who have literally died for Jesus, but also all who have lived their lives as his witnesses.
These men and women represent all Christians. We are inherently a Church of witnesses, or martyrs. As expressed in one of Scripture’s most paradoxical images “the Christians have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb” (7:14). They have found forgiveness in Jesus’ saving death. They have given testimony with him to God’s love for a troubled and hostile world. They have endured with his strength and perseverance. They have gained everything by losing all with him.
They share his conquest of death by having shared his dying. They share in the victory that Christ won over the powers of evil through his Cross. They have a part in his kingdom and priesthood and take their place in the worship of heaven described earlier in the book (4-5).
The Psalm describes the symbolic entrance of God into the Temple in ancient Israelite worship. This began with a procession in which the ark, representing God, was carried. At the entrance to the Temple there was a liturgy to remind worshippers of the moral requirements for entry. These moral requirements prepare us for the ‘Beatitudes’. God is praised because he created the earth over the waters.
1 John 3:1-3.
The first verse tells us that divine life is a gift from the Father. Our senses cannot see it or touch it, but its presence does not go unnoticed because its signs can be easily detected. This new reality is totally incompatible with the way of thinking of those living in darkness. This is why the enemies of Jesus could not recognize his divinity.
The second part of the reading reminds us of a re-assuring truth: the Father does not wait until the day we die to give us this life; he gives it to us today, now. This new reality will, however, only be made manifest when we shed the veil of our earthly existence. Revelation it seems attempted to picture heaven. The author of 1 John says bluntly that this cannot be done. We do not know the glory we shall share in the future. This will happen “when it is revealed and we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (v.2) Appearances deceive us now, and we are entranced by illusions.
We cannot as yet judge earthly realities correctly. This is why we give more value to fleeting things than to what is really important. In the presence of Christ, our eyes will be opened, and we shall then truly understand what God has worked in us.
The ‘Beatitudes’ introduce the solemn teachings of Jesus contained in the ‘Five Discourses’ of Matthew’s Gospel, which are: (1) The Sermon on the Mount (Ch.5-7); (2) Instructions for the Apostles for their Mission (Ch.10); (3) Parables about the Kingdom of Heaven (Ch.13); (4); Teaching on the meaning of Discipleship (Ch.18); (5) Teaching about the end of the present age and the coming of the Kingdom of heaven (Ch.24-25).
These were the commandments and teachings of Jesus by means of which the ‘Eleven’ were later to make disciples of all the nations. These nations are represented by the crowds who listen to the Sermon on the Mount. The ‘Beatitudes’ offer the hearers a contradiction. They declare a state that few would aspire to, which not only leads to a wonderful destiny, but one that is already blessed in God’s eyes.
Those in every generation who strive for the ideals of peace and justice, those who labour to abolish poverty and hunger are encouraged by this proclamation of Jesus and are reminded that there does exist a poverty pleasing to God, a poverty of spirit, and a hunger for the righteousness of the Kingdom.
Many have recognized in the ‘Beatitudes’ a portrait of Jesus himself. Indeed Jesus uses the word translated ‘gentle’ in the second beatitude as a self-description, and as he entered Jerusalem for the last time, the evangelist applied to him Zechariah’s description of ‘the gentle King on a donkey’ (21:5; Zec. 9:9).
Today we reflect on the wonderful faith, generosity and love of the saints, their total dedication of their lives to God and in the service of others. It feels wonderful to be one in community with them. They were, like ourselves at one time, with many having the same weaknesses. Celebrating their lives today means that we are acknowledging the paths they trod, that we are ready to follow their examples by entrusting our lives to God, and the guidance of his Spirit.
The feast of ‘All Saints’ invites us to renew our hope and our confidence that God’s love will triumph in the end. It calls us to renew our dedication to our membership in the peoples of God, which is the Church. It reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles, but that there are countless multitudes of brothers and sisters, both on earth and in heaven, with whom we share God’s love.
The ‘Beatitudes’ remind us today of the qualities that the followers of Jesus and all Christians must strive to achieve. Those who possess these qualities are already at home in the Kingdom.
If these ‘Christian Values’ are not appreciated in our world, it is because the Kingdom is still to be fully established on this earth.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the Feast of all Saints Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … The first reading where 144,000 of God’s servants are being sealed in our most fundamental understanding, our ‘baptism’, means that we have been given the ‘seal’. Each and every one of us has received the call to holiness at our baptism, and it is the task of each and every one of us to respond to that call with all our hearts. Today let us recall and reaffirm our ‘Promises of Holy Baptism’.
Mon. … Those being saved by the ‘Blood of the Lamb’, identified as carrying palm branches, are seen as a sign of martyrdom. Our ‘White Robes’ at our baptism and confirmation were washed clean in the ‘Blood of the Lamb’, having found forgiveness in Jesus’ death. Have we, by our actions, given testimony with Jesus of God’s love to others, who are lost in a hostile and unforgiving world? Can we truly call ourselves witnesses if we don’t preach the Good News? It’s never too late to change.
Tues. … In the Psalm, at the entrance of the Temple there was a liturgy to remind all worshippers of the moral requirement for entry. In our Church there are ‘no moral requirements’ for entry. Our Church is a ‘hospital’ for sinners; all are welcome. There are, however, moral requirements to calling ourselves Christians. These moral requirements are centred around the love we have for God our Father and our neighbour, manifested by action and not empty words.
Wed. … John’s letter is very honest. We do not know what God is like, or what we will be like in the life beyond life. We will be as God is if we incline ourselves in God’s direction now, because whatever else God is, God is love.
Thur. … Matthew’s ‘Beatitudes’ constitutes Jesus’ platform for election into God’s kingdom. It is part of our Catholic teaching that all of us are called to be ‘saints’. The presence of the Spirit opens up a limitless vista for us, because God’s Spirit knows no limitation. However, limitations come from our lack of courage, our laziness, our pride and our attachments in the world. Let us pray to have the willingness to trust in God and to follow the movement of the Spirit in our lives.
Frid. … The moral qualities contained in the ‘Beatitudes’ are the Christian values we must all strive to achieve. The ways of the world contradict Jesus’ teachings. Do the ‘Beatitudes’ offer you a contradiction, or do you see in them a state of living that you would truly wish to aspire to? Today in prayer, reflect on the Beatitudes that your spiritual state needs most in your faith’s journey. Ask in Jesus’ name, and it will be given to you when you need it most and are ready to receive it.
Sat. … The Beatitudes, which are read today, are the ‘qualities’ that are to ‘identify’ the followers of Jesus. Those who possess and embrace them are already at home in the Kingdom. How will we be identified when we stand at the gates of the Kingdom waiting to enter? Will we be showing that aura of love that surrounds us?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, we honour today all the saints by joining with all the angels in joyful praise. We pray that You grant us Your Spirit that blessed their lives, so that having shared their faith on earth, we may also come to know their joy and peace in Your kingdom.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.