Rev. 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; 1John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
We have four different homily notes here; kindly scroll down the page. God bless you and Happy New Month of November! You always give us feedback or make enquires through the Live Chat Button at the right hand side of this page. You can also subscribe by clicking on the Red Bell at the left hand side of this page. Thank you!
Fr. Paul Oredipe: Holiness – Grace in ordinary life
Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Sainthood, My Goal!
Fr. Philip Mario Ekweli: On the Solemnity of All Saints
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Becoming a saint
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
Holiness – Grace in ordinary life
Negro spiritual song:
Oh when the Saints
Oh when the Saints go marching in
O Lord, I want to be in their number
Oh when the Saints go marching in
Today we honour, not just the canonized Saints, who are likely to be well known, but all the ones who are unknown and unrecognized. A day commemorating the Saints is actually a day of rejoicing in the greatness of the Lord and hoping in His love. The victory that we see in the Saints testifies to the Lord himself.
Today’s celebration gives us the opportunity, once again, to reflect on and examine the great task to which we all are called. What is Sainthood and who are the Saints? The Saints are human beings like every one of us here today. They are flesh and blood like us, in fact mere creatures like us who have allowed God to complete His creation in them by living to the fullest all their possibilities.
The First reading, from the Book of Revelations, tells us that a huge throng, so many that they cannot be numbered, are clothed in the white robes of sanctity holding the palm branches of victory in their hands. The Saints, you see, are innumerable as their number is impossible to determine. The number 144 is a multiple of 12, which in turn is four times three, that is, the sum of what is immeasurable, which reaches the extremes of the four cardinal points. These Saints are from all races, countries and cultures, they are of all ages, gender, state and trade.
Recent Popes, especially John Paul II, have emphasized this universality by beatifying and canonizing numerous men and women of faith across the five continents. It is an immeasurable number, because in truth, all those who live and die in a state of grace and friendship with God are Saints.
The real fact is that the Saints were simple and ordinary men, women, and children too. What marks them out was that they carried to its full completion the work of creation and redemption in them by doing what they did well and exceptionally too. It is not in doing strange, extra-ordinary things that greatness and holiness consists in, but in doing common, ordinary things well. “What is worth doing, is worth doing well.” If it is not worth doing well, then it is not worth doing at all. This is what is evident in the lives of the Saints.
Someone describes what it is to be a Saint in the following words: ‘You put your whole self into whatever you do, and you do all that you do to please God.” The Saints are the transparency (evidence, reflection) of God’s power. He acts in those who really trust Him and give themselves totally to Him as tools in His hands. The Saints were not just born. They became Saints, they underwent a conversion – a change of heart which resulted in a change of life. This change did not happen overnight, but was the result of a long and painful struggle.
Our celebration today is prompted by one fact and doctrine of the Church. Even though the Saints may be dead, it is believed and also experienced that they are still with us. In fact we are still united with them. This is expressed in the teaching we know as “the Communion of the Saints”. We express it in the Creed that there is an enduring bond of unity between us living in this world and those before us who have gone to their eternal reward in heaven. The Communion of Saints points to the fact that there is considerable interaction between heaven and our world.
The Church militant is urged on by the Church triumphant (those whose race is done and whose fight is won). The Church on earth receives encouragement from the Church in heaven. It is that “Communion of the Saints” that we celebrate today.
With the Saints we make up a great family. And so the celebration of today is a family celebration. It is also a celebration of what we are, hopefully, in the process of becoming ourselves. It is a celebration of potential saints, our celebration.
Very soon we shall pray in the Preface of the Mass: “ Father, today we keep the festival of your holy city the heavenly Jerusalem. Our brothers and sisters the Saints now sing your praises forever around your throne and their glory fills us with joy. Our communion with them through your Church gives us inspiration and strength as we hasten on our pilgrimage of faith, eager to meet them.”
That inspiration and strength indeed are what the Saints continue to give us. If you are feeling depressed, if the burdens of life seem too heavy, if you feel on your own with no one at hand to help, then today’s celebration has a strong message for you.
God has vowed never to leave us, nor forsake us. For Christ has promised to be with us always; and the Holy Company of Saints ever encompass us. If you take this to heart and live it fully, your despondency will be dispelled, your feeling of loneliness overcome, and you will find in Christ renewed strength to go on, rejoicing too in the company of the Blessed Saints. In the visionary of the reading, we are encouraged ‘to go on’.
We are part of that ‘great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations and tribes an tongues’. No one is left out, no place is out of it and no time is excluded, even in our own age and generation.
In this light, the Saints become for us great helpers and assistants. As human beings like us, surely they must have had to confront difficulties, trials and struggles similar and even greater experiences of pain and suffering than our own and they had to begin again and again many times, as we make effort to do each day. The Solemnity of today is a reminder to us that we have such a great multitude of men and women on every side of us to help us. But we must remember that the Saints are set up for us as models to imitate in our following of Christ.
The Church sets them up as models and exemplars precisely because they imitated Christ. They are our benefactors, friends, reminders to us of what life is about. They encourage us. They inspire us. And yes, they intercede for us, so that we may be bolder in walking the path of the Gospel. And the path is one of happiness. The road to that happiness in this life and in the life to come is what the Gospel of today spells out clearly for us in the beatitudes.
The Saints we remember today in their own individual and particular ways have walked on that road and are now happy forever with God in the heavenly kingdom. How often we have read in the lives of Saints that when they walked in the ways of the Lord they were persecuted by men, they gave their lives, they shed their blood, afflicted and persecuted … and they did so in an attitude of joy and happiness. They took the sermon on the mountain (the Gospel of today) to heart and followed the footsteps of Christ and joined the company of the blessed ones in the glory of God.
We too are called to be filled with the same joy and happiness. As long as we remain constant and faithful, we shall have our share of that blessings promised to the pure in heart, the gentle, the contrite, the merciful, the pure, the peace-makers. We may be laughed at or mocked. We may be rejected and abused. Definitely, we shall never lose that happiness and joy.
The victory that we see in the Saints testifies to the Lord himself. It was not just their own efforts that produced such holiness, but the work of the Lord, who wants to pour the fullness of the life of Jesus into our hearts and lives. This has been the hope and joy of all holy men and women always and everywhere, and it is our hope and joy as well.
Today’s Solemnity calls upon us never to fall back only on ourselves, but to look to the Lord so as so to be radiant (cf. Ps. 34:6). Not to presume on our own strength but to trust as sons and daughters in Him who has loved us, never to grow weary of doing good.
After surviving the present time and whatever the future holds in store for us, we will stand “before the throne and the Lamb, dressed in long white robes and holding palm branches” in our hands. (Rev. 7:9) We shall celebrate the ultimate family reunion and be perfectly happy forever, for our “reward in heaven is great.” (Matt. 5:12) Already, many have gone before us and share in the perfect happiness of heaven. Let us be determined and forthright to take our place whenever the Master shall call us.
May the celebration of today usher in a spirit of joy, peace and gladness into the hearts and bodies that are sick, worried, troubled and broken. May all our prayers to the Saints support and carry us through the various phases of the moment. And on the last day, may each one of us be counted among the Saints in the heavenly Jerusalem, in that fellowship of the Saints where Jesus is Lord forever and ever to the glory of the Father through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
Sainthood, My Goal!
“ _If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am there also is my servant. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him” (John 12:26)._
It is a common practice for people to have role models. These models are those who have excelled in a chosen carrier in life and so constitute motivators for those others. To have someone as your model means to keep the success of the person in view so that in the future you too may achieve what the person has achieved.
As Children of God, today, we celebrate our collective role models: the Saints. They constitutes role models because they once lived in our existential conditions of life. This is what differentiates Saints from Angels. Angels never existed in bodily form on earth and so never experienced the existential conditions of live. On the other hand, Saints were once here on earth with us. Their lives had different patterns some were old, young, middle aged, rich, poor, male, female, educated, uneducated, virgins, non-virgins, sick, healthy, and so on. In all, every saint was a retired sinner. Either they retired after a sinful life or they retired in their daily struggle against sin.
Therefore, whatever be our condition in life, there is a saint who was like us. This means that our very conditions of life are routes to sainthood. We do not need to do something extraordinary to become saints; we only need to apply more devotion and love to what we do. To the question, “how can we become saints, friends of God?”, Benedict XVI answers “…to become a saint it is above all necessary to listen to Jesus and then to follow him and not lose heart in the face of difficulties”.
This celebration of the solemnity of all Saints is a humble assertion of the fact that the Church’s calendar does not exhaust the litany of saints in heaven. There are very many persons who lived well, made heaven but may have lived a silent life and so are not publicly known, yet they are known by God. In this Solemnity of All Saints, we celebrate them all. Therefore, you do not necessarily need earthly publicity to become a saint. Canonization does not say that only those canonized are saints; it rather says that the Church is certain that those canonized are saints. Again, those canonized are not more saintly or occupy a VIP session in heaven than those not canonized. They are only put forward to us for our emulation.
Saints are those who have made heaven. Therefore, this celebration reminds us of the reality of heaven and invariably the reality of hell. Heaven reminds us that this world is not our final destination. So, when we suffer humiliations and persecutions, we do not lose hope. The second reading tells us that we suffer because we are children of God; when we endure to the end, we shall become something greater.
The biographies of the saints depict men and women who, always docile to divine designs, sometimes endured indescribable sufferings, persecutions and martyrdom. They persevered in their task. “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress,” we read in the Book of Revelation, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).
And so, we are rather blessed when the world thinks nothing of us on account of the virtues we practice. Even when death comes especially at unexpected age and condition, today’s celebration tells us that we are not really disadvantaged. The real disadvantage is to not to be a saint. Death does not have the final, but missing heaven is final damnation.
Reflecting on the meaning of today’s solemnity, Benedict XVI has this to say: “Gazing upon the luminous example of the saints, the great desire to be like the saints is awakened in us; happy to live near to God, in the light, in the great family of the friends of God, living in his family. And this is the vocation of all of us, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, and on this day brought to our attention in a solemn way”.
Dear friends in Christ, the lives of the saints give us hope that holiness is possible; it assures us that there is a reward for our struggle for righteousness. Holiness demands a constant effort of God but above all it is a gift of God, who is thrice holy (cf. Isaiah 6:3). When the struggle to keep it up seems unsustainable due to lack or scarcity of good people around, let the saints be our motivation that we can get there. Never forget that it is possible to have the saints pray for us because the Church triumphant is not entirely separated from the Church militant.
The gospel reading invites us to share in the life of Blessedness. The more we imitate Christ and remain united to him, the more we enter into the mystery of divine holiness. In the Beatitudes, we enter into the passion of Christ so as to share in the resurrection – which is sainthood.
Lastly, dear friends, sainthood is not something that starts or happens after earthly life. To be a saint in heaven, we must have been saints here on earth. We need not only to be thought of as saints, we must authentically be one. Live each day of your life putting smiles on the faces of others and you too will make it. If after everything, we no make this heaven, wetin we gain? *God Bless You!*
Fr. Philipmario Ekweli:
On the Solemnity of All Saints
Beloved in Christ, today the universal Church celebrates the solemnity of All Saints. Today’s solemnity brings together the whole Church, both in heaven and on earth to celebrate the triumph of God’s grace, since all of us are called to share in the holiness of God Himself and to live holy lives here on earth.
Our ancestors in faith, who have already completed their journey and lived holy lives, now enjoying the beatific presence of God interceding for us so that one day we may all join them and be united around the banquet table that the Trinity prepares for all the peoples of the world.
That brings to mind why we solicit and take solace in the intercession of the saints. We depend on them graciously because they have made it to heaven beholding the glorious face of God daily- the beatific vision according to St.Thomas Aquinas.
The Church of Christ is closely connected, the living and the dead form one glorious Church of Christ. That is why during the celebration of the Holy Mass at consecration, the Priest says…To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and with your Apostles and saints in your kingdom. Beloved, this is exactly what we are celebrating today as ‘All Saints’.
Beloved, this great solemnity comprises: the Church triumphant, the Church militant and the Church suffering. For the sake of today’s celebration, emphasis will be on the church triumphant. Firstly: The church triumphant is the Church in heaven-the saints. Those who have been washed with the blood of the Lamb such as the Apostles, all good men and women who died for their faith in Christ Jesus.
In our first reading, the writer of the book of Revelation says: And l heard the number of the sealed, a one hundred and forty-four thousand(144,000) sealed, out of every tribes of the sons of Israel. They are the ones who have gone before us- our ancestors in faith.
Also he saw a great multitude which no one could count clothed and standing before the lamb(Jesus Christ) holding branches and crying loudly “salvation belongs to our God, bowing in a perpetual adoration. We shall join them some days.
It is glorious and blissful to join the heavenly saints and march on. Together with us and they, we are enjoying the lavished love of God according to John the Evangelist(1John3:1-3) in our second reading.
Secondly, the Church militant is the Church on earth- we the believers in Christ Jesus. It refers to us who are still in this world strongly with our faith. We will not stop until we end the journey and wear the crown of victory and be united with the triumphant Church. Beloved, this is our earnest desire and hope. Heaven is our goal.
Beloved in Christ, through faith in Christ Jesus, we are among the uncountable numbers mentioned in our first reading. So let us make frantic efforts to attain that precious treasure-heaven.
Thirdly, The Church suffering: it refers to the dead ones who believed in God while on earth, those who serve God, fellowship with us, who may be unable to enter heaven for one reason or the other. Thus, they may likely end up in Purgatory where they shall undergo the process of purification (Purgation) before entering heaven. Mind you, they are not unbelievers or pagans but Christians or good peoples who served Christ on earth.
Taking a cursory look at the book of Exodus and Matthew, Jesus answered the Sadducees ,… I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is God not of the dead but of the living. (Exo3:6, mtt22:29-32). Those who died in Christ are still living. By implications therefore, these our great fathers though dead but still live on and enjoying God’s presence.
Beloved, we shall win victory over death through faith in Christ Jesus. St. Paul made it very lucid when he was addressing the people of Colossus that Christ in us is the hope of glory(Col1:27). Our hope does not end in this world(1Cor15:19).
In conclusion, the Gospel text summarized the solemnity by saying: “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called sons of God…rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven”. (Mtt5:1-12).
May God grant us the grace to be holy and have a reward in heaven. We welcome our brothers and sisters into the company of Mary, Joseph, the Apostles and all the saints and through their intercessions, may God grant us a place in His kingdom through Christ our lord amen.
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Becoming a saint
Saint originates from the Greek word “hagios” which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious, set apart”. A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. Whether ‘saint’ or ‘saints’ the exclusive use of it is in plural form—“saints.” The only exception, found in Phil.4:21, has more than one believer in mind: “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” Again, the word “Saints” has both surface and deeper connotations:
On the surface level “Saints” refer to the body of Christ or Christians. For example, in Acts 9:13, Simon says, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.” Here, saints refer to all the Christians at Jerusalem, not to a special group of Christians. The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers. Thus, the Scripture is clear that all Christians are saints and the Catechism of the Catholic Church corroborates this when it says that the Church is the assembly of all the saints (CCC 946) and so the Church believes in the communion of saints.
Beyond this level of understanding the Catholic Church gives us a deeper understanding of who the saints are. Thus, in Catholic theology, saints are a special class of believers who have been canonized. Canonization is the process by which the Catholic Church confers sainthood upon a person based on that person’s special deeds. The first canonization was done by Christ himself when he said in Luke 23:43 “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The saints are celebrated during the calendar year. What happens to those holy men and women that were not canonized? It was for them that the Church through the instrumentality of Pope Urban IV instituted the Solemnity of All Saints that is celebrated on the first of November every year. It was instituted to supply any deficiencies in the Faithfull’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year. Thus, the Catholic Church teaches that a “saint” is anyone in heaven, whether recognized on Earth or not, who according to Heb.12:1 form the “great cloud of witnesses”. These according to 2 Tim.1:5 “may include our own fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers or other loved ones” who may have not always lived perfect lives but “amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord”.
The first reading speaks of great multitude that no one could count who have died and are now radiant in the presence of God in heaven. They are radiant because their robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Rev. 7:14 described the saints as those who have come out of the great ordeal; those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. We are humans; we cannot become saints’ without scars and so we wash. No Christian is clean without washing. In baptism we are washed and we put on the garment of Christ; in confession we wash ourselves free from all sins as to continue to sustain the life of Christ we have received. Therefore, we must learn to wash always to sustain eternal sainthood.
Again, Rev. 7:3 says the saints are those who have been “sealed”. Things sealed belong to the one who sealed them. A letter sealed or signed belonged to the one who signed it. The saints have been sealed. They belong to God. John 6:27 says that Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. 2Cor.1:21-22 makes us to understand that a seal has been laid on us and the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a guarantee. We have been sealed in baptism; we belong to God, we are God’s property so to say, and our place is in heaven.
Therefore, if so many have become saints why can’t we? The saints were humans like us; same weaknesses, inclinations and passionate desire. We too can become saints if we truly want to be. Today’s psalm leaves us with a question and answer. Ps 24:3-4 “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things and who has not sworn so as to deceive his neighbour” A man who loves his neighbour will not devise means to deceive his neighbour. A Christian who loves his neighbour will work with him with clean hands and pure hearts. If we must ascend the Lord’s holy place it must be with clean hands and pure hearts.
Precisely because of this, the gospel says that the pure in heart shall see God. Beloved, only the pure in heart shall see God. Without holiness no one can see God. In addition, the gospel gives a blueprint for Christian living called the beatitude. The beatitude is Christ’s commentary on our attitude. It is the behavior that we must imbibe if we desire sainthood. Beloved in Christ, attitude is everything. If we can change our attitude there is every possibility that we shall be numbered among the saints. Finally, the beatitude also reminds us that no matter how difficult life may be we must have faith in God and live out the Gospel. The saints are those who went through dungeon and sword; fire and heat; yet they persevered. We cannot become saints if we cannot die to the flesh; if we are not ready to sacrifice pleasure for his good measure; we cannot become saints if at the face of any little thing we shiver, tumble, crumble and fall. Only saints can say no matter the persecution, no matter the suffering I will not deny my God. May we find the grace to remain steadfast through Christ our Lord. Amen.