October 30, 2015

Feast of All Saints / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionToday the Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints, liturgically replacing the observance of the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Setting aside a Sunday in Ordinary Time signals that the Church regards the feast to be highly significant, in great measure because of the lesson the feast teaches. This is the case for today’s celebration of All Saints. The feast is ancient in Catholic history; traces of it appeared as early as the seventh century. It became popular among believers, and since 1484 it has been a holy day of obligation.

Of course, it honors the many men and women from all walks of life throughout the centuries, whose reputation for sanctity, often at great cost to them, earned them the Church’s formal recognition in canonization.

The feast reminds us that many other saints, perhaps now unremembered, add luster to Christian tradition. Many, many saints are not canonized. They achieved eternal life. The lesson is that so can we if we earnestly follow the Lord.

The Book of Revelation provides the first reading. Probably no other volume in the New Testament has suffered as much from inexact, and even hysterical, attempts at analysis. About two centuries ago, for instance, an American Protestant preacher proclaimed wide and far that Revelation condemned the steam engine as a work of the devil.

Actually, the book is a marvelous testimony to the faith of its author, and of the Church that for so long has venerated this book as inspired. It looks to that blessed day, perhaps heavenly but maybe on Earth, when Christ will reign supreme. Then all will be good and right.

Today’s reading affirms several beliefs always cherished by Christians. First, earthly death is not the end. For the holy, life continues in God’s presence. Salvation is open to anyone, regardless of nation, race or tongue. Salvation comes to people because of, and through, the Lamb, Jesus, the innocent lamb of sacrifice on Calvary, gloriously risen and reigning forever, surrounded by the angels.

The next reading is from John’s First Epistle. This reading also insists that salvation is available to all, and Jesus is the Savior. Through what theologians call the Incarnation, we are the Lord’s adopted brothers and sisters, heirs therefore of eternal life. Following Jesus is the key to realizing this wondrous status.

Matthew’s Gospel is the source of the final reading. The two preceding readings told us that reflecting Jesus uncompromisingly in our own lives connects us with the Lord, and draws us into the divine plan for our eternal salvation.

In this Gospel passage, we find the actual blueprint for attaining this goal of salvation in Jesus. We must be merciful, humble, righteous, thirsty for justice, and clean of heart, and we must make peace with others. Some call these goals the “Ten Commandments of the New Testament.” They precisely and clearly define Christian life.

Reflection

All Saints Day is a time to remember. On this day, the Church places before us that great multitude of the holy whose very lives testify to the fact that total devotion to Christ is possible. Such devotion characterized Paul and Mary Magdalen, Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila, Katherine Drexel and Junipero Serra.

The day is much, much more than a memorial. It is a call to us Catholics alive today. Granted, great pressures may confront us, some peculiar to our own circumstances, others from whatever is around us in the culture and the conventions of our time.

As did human beings everywhere and always, we must face temptations from the world, the flesh and the devil.

Temptations, however, can be resisted. Faith will sustain us, as faith sustained the martyrs.

Revelation and First John tell us that following Christ is worth any price. †

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