The saints reproduced in their lives Jesus' victory over evil on the cross

Homily for the November 1st - Solemnity of All Saints

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Our celebration here today is just a dim reflection of the celebration in heaven. Imagine all the angels and saints gathered around God, united in praising and worshipping God, the saints who have been canonized by the Church as well as millions of saints from every age who have been faithful to Jesus and now enjoy heaven. In the first reading today from Revelation chapter 7 John recounts a vision he received of that celebration in heaven.

“I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev 7:9-10)

Then John is told why they are in heaven,

“These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14)

The saints in heaven have been faithful to Jesus despite all the difficulties of living the Christian life and being a follower of Jesus. That is why they are now given white robes in this vision of John, showing that they have remained faithful to Jesus in all the trials that came upon them.

It is not just the saints themselves who achieved this victory over trials and temptations during life. It was the grace of God working in them. That is why Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:10, “…what I am now I am through the grace of God...” The saints’ lives of faith and endurance were made possible by God working in them and that is why we gather today, to thank God for what he has done in the lives of all the saints of all ages who are now gathered in heaven. It is God’s victory in their lives that we celebrate today. Jesus’ victory over evil on the cross has been reproduced in the lives of these saints and we give thanks to God.

The saints, whether famous and canonized, or unknown and not canonized, are an example to us. We could apply this excerpt from the letter to the Hebrews to the saints,

“With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too, then should throw off everything that weighs us down and the sin that clings so closely and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross disregarding the shame of it and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne.” (Heb 12:1-2)

The saints are all around us. The preface to the Eucharistic Prayer usually concludes by stating that we join with all the angels and saints in praising God saying, “Holy, Holy Holy Lord God of power and might…” In the apparition at Knock the angels appeared hovering around the altar. During the Eucharistic Prayer we ask to be made worthy to join with the angels and saints in heaven.

A question I am asked is “Why do we pray to the saints sometimes, why not just pray directly to God?” We pray to the saints because they can help us on journey to Jesus. They are now gathered around the throne of God and they can intercede for us and help us. In an earlier vision in Revelation John saw golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8). And we know that the saints do intercede for us and help us because so many people claim to have received favors through praying to a particular saint. And indeed for anyone to be beatified or canonized a major miracle inexplicable by natural means must have taken place. So praying to the saints is powerful. They are our brothers and sisters from every country and from every generation and they can help us on our path to God. We have one ultimate goal in praying to the saints, that through their prayers we may join with them one day in heaven by sharing in God’s victory as they have. We ask them to help us allow Jesus’ victory over evil on the cross to be reproduced in our lives as it has been in theirs. We pray to them that what John saw in his vision in the first reading today may at some future times be true of us also,

“These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14)

Therefore as the conclusion to the second reading today from John stated,

“Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ ” (1 John 3:3)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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