The WORD in Other Words by Fr Ross Heruela SVD (Philippines) Feast of All Saints, Rv 7:2-4, 9-14, 1 Jn 3:1–3, Mt 5:1–12a
There are several theories on why today‘s feast falls on November 1. One very interesting account related to our celebration is the story of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI (866—911). He had a wife named Empress Lhcophano who lived a devout life. When she died, the emperor decided to build a church and dedicate it to her but he was forbidden to do so. Hence, he decided that the edifice be dedicated to “All the Saints” (Downey 1956: 301—305).
This act of Leo VI helps us understand that not only those who are canonically recognized as “saints” by the Church are in heaven but also countless believers who lived out their faith quietly in their day-to-day living, those who desire to follow the Lord while on earth, can be saints too.
The first reading portrays a great multitude marked with a “seal on the foreheads” and were “from every nation, race, people, and tongue, and they stood before the throne and before the lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev 7; 4,9). Noteworthy here is that this multitude bears no individual names and recognition as the saints we know in our time, yet this congregation is also in front of the Lord. This scene gives us hope that even if the Church will not include us in the canon of saints, we are assured that we have a space in heaven and that we, too, can still be saints.
The second reading points out to the same reality that believers have a sure destination after their life here on earth. In that abode “we shall be like him.” This assurance of heaven springs out from the love of God (1 Jn. 3: 1). It is his merciful and unconditional love that will enable us to partake in the eternal banquet in heaven and make us worthy to stand in front of him.
However, the gospel reminds us that this promise of sainthood also requires one attitude: humility. This is also the value lived out by the canonically recognized saints in the Church while they were on earth. Their lives were shaped by their humble desire to live out the life of Christ who also emptied himself to be like us. And it is this great desire that they were granted a special place in heaven making them blessed. It is by our humble service to others and our humble obedience to God‘s commands that we become blessed, and future saints in heaven.