Thursday November 1, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of All Saints
Reading I (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14) Reading II (1 John 3:1-3)
Gospel (St. Matthew 5:1-12a)
Today the Church takes time to celebrate the feast of all the saints in Heaven. When we consider all the saints, of course, we normally think about the saints whose names are known to all of us, the great heroes of our Faith, the ones we can hold up as an example for everybody to be able to see what the Christian life is to be. Yet, we know at the same time, from the vision of Saint John, that he did not only see three or four thousand people - the canonized saints - but rather, he saw a multitude of people from every language, nation, race and people. It was a countless number. And so we understand, then, that there are many thousands of saints who are unknown to most people. They have lived their lives. They have "fought the fight", they have "run the race", as Saint Paul says. They have kept the Faith. And the merited crown that awaited them has now been awarded to them. Their names may not be known to us on earth, but they are known in the Book of Life in Heaven. These are the people, now, who glorify God for eternity. But these are the same ones who glorified God in their lives. Maybe they were not the ones who were outstanding, heroic persons; but rather, they were the ordinary saints, as opposed to the extraordinary ones - the ordinary saints, like you and me. They were the ones who were husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, the ones who were students, the ones who did their work in the way that God wanted them to.
We stop to ask ourselves: "How does one become a saint?" It begins, as we hear in the Book of Revelation, by being sealed with the seal of the living God. Each one of us has received that seal; each one of us has been baptized into Jesus Christ, and the seal of the living God has been placed upon us. From the day that you are baptized, and for the rest of eternity, there is a seal, a mark, upon your soul. It will be evident, both in Heaven and in hell, who was baptized. It will be very clear who has the seal of the living God.
But it is not enough just to say, "I am baptized, therefore, I am going to Heaven." It does not work that way. We know that we can lose grace. We know that we can fall away from God. We need, then, to ask ourselves: "What is next?" We need to strive for holiness. Saint John tells us in the second reading today that we are going to be like Christ. "What we will be," he says, "has not yet come to light, but we know that when it does we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is." We will be molded to Christ; we will be transformed into Christ. But that transformation begins now. If we are going to live a good Christian life, even just to truly call ourselves Christian people, it means that we need to have time set aside every single day for prayer, that we need to be developing that relationship with Jesus Christ, that we need to become more like Him in our day-to-day lives.
What would that look like? That looks just like the Beatitudes; that is the life of Christ encapsulated in nine little statements. That is what we need to be about: striving for that kind of holiness. But, on a practical level, to be a saint is very simple: it is to pray every day, it is to live a moral life, it is to stay very close to the Sacraments: to get to Mass, to get to Confession regularly. But in the day-to-day, minute-to-minute lives that we are all called to live, to be a saint is all encapsulated in one little term: obedience. It is just that simple: obedience to the duties of our state in life and to do those duties with the greatest amount of love that we can do them with. In doing that we will be saints.
To say that we are to be obedient to the duties of our state in life is to be obedient, first and foremost, to our baptismal vows, where we rejected Satan and we said "yes" to God. That encapsulates those points that I have already mentioned: to pray, to live a moral life, to frequent the Sacraments. For those who are married, it is to be faithful to your marriage vows - completely faithful to them -loving that other person (whom you sometimes do not feel like loving very much) and making sure that you are placing that person as the priority, pouring yourself out for your children, as well. And for the children, that means being obedient to your parents. It means being the best student that you can be, doing your work to the best of your ability - not complaining, not whining, not throwing your books on the floor and doing things like that, not putting them in your backpack and telling Mom that you already did your homework when you really did not. It means to do your chores. It means to clean your room and do all the things you are expected to do, and to do it in the best way that you can do it. So, again, that means willingly and even joyfully, not kicking and screaming, not complaining. And that does not only go for the kids, that goes for the adults as well. All the duties of our state in life, not to kick and moan and scream about them, but to accept them and to offer that up in union with Christ. It is to mold ourselves to be like Him.
So when we think about it, we have these extraordinary saints, the ones whose names we all know, and we could say that, in essence, they are like Our Lord in His public life. These are the ones who did great things. God worked miracles through them. He used them to bring conversions of many thousands of people, sometimes. He preached through them. He touched people's lives through them. But most people are not going to be that way. That was only three years of Our Lord's life. What happened for the first thirty? They were hidden.
And so if you think about it, a very small percentage of the Christian population is going to be extraordinary saints. The vast majority is going to be likened to the hidden life of Christ. They are going to be the unknown saints - but people who are in love with Jesus Christ, people who are striving in their day-to-day lives to live the Faith that they profess. That is what we are called to, each and every one of us. If God wants us to be extraordinary saints, then we need to be obedient to that and do His Will. But for most, He is calling us to live like that hidden life, to live a family life, to live a life of heroic love shown in little things. That is the way that Christ is asking each of us to become a saint: to do what we are supposed to do in the best way that we can. And in that we will be molded into Jesus Christ in this life so that we will be prepared to become like Him in the next, to see Him face-to-face and be transformed into Christ, to be one of those who have indeed survived the period of great trial and have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.