On November 1 the church around the world celebrates the Feast of All Saints. Since it is the name of our local church, we will celebrate this coming Sunday, November 4. The feast has a long history in the church. Pope Gregory III instituted the current date of November 1 in the 8th Century.
The feast arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their deaths. As martyrdom increased during the late Roman Empire, the church instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown were properly honored.
The scripture readings assigned for the feast are: Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14, 1John 3: 1-3, Matthew 5: 1-12a. These readings are not just for those who came before us, but also for us as we live out our baptismal identity as priest, prophet and servant leader.
“I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!” But the “fee” seems so high. One has to go through hard times, distressful times, to wash one’s robes in the blood of the lamb.
To be in that number, be prepared to suffer–at least according to the Book of Revelation. But is that how we become saints? The second reading from the First Epistle of John tells us that it is God’s love that transforms us into children of God. Even though we may not always act like it, we are indeed “God’s holy ones.”
The Gospel from Matthew give us the program for how we need to respond to the love we continue to receive from God–The Beatitudes. If “we want to be in that number,” it is our sacred duty to seek to alleviate the desperate plight of the poor and powerless. If we want to be in that number we will console our sisters and brothers who are crushed by loss, fear and despair. We will want to empower others, not intimidate. We will commit ourselves to justice for all, not merely for ourselves. And the mercy we have received from God, we will want to extend to others. And when God’s reign is under attack, we will find the courage to stand up and continue to preach the good news of peace and justice and equality for all.
If we want to be in that number, the Beatitudes will become our way of life. Peace and love, justice and mercy, will become our second nature.