All Saints Day
Today, Nov 1, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, and tomorrow, Nov 2, we commemorate All Souls Day. All Saints Day opens the gates of heaven to give us a glimpse of the blessed who are there enjoying the beatific vision of God. On All Souls Day we will remember and pray for all the souls of the faithful departed.
By celebrating these two liturgies, we are giving expression to our belief in the communion of saints. The communion of saints means, simply, the common union of those souls who were sanctified when they received the sacrament of baptism. [On the day of our baptism we were immersed into this great communion. We were baptized into the life, death, and faithfulness of Jesus, like all the saints we honor today.] There is a common bond between us; we can communicate with each other; we can pray for one another, that a merciful God will one day receive all of us in his heavenly kingdom. This is a joyous celebration; the Church on earth and the Church suffering rejoice with the Church triumphant. Today we celebrate what we proclaim every Sunday of the year: We believe in the communion of saints.
Today is a memorial. It is a day for remembering the countless men and women who went before us marked with the sign of faith. We celebrate today the memory of millions and millions of faithful people, from every nation, race, people and tongue, who survived the period of trial called life, and never despaired or gave up. We also celebrate the unknown and unfamiliar saints, who likewise made it into the court of the Lamb. Today is our memorial for all faithful people. Basically, they are no different from any of us. We are united with them; we and they are one family. It is the communion of saints!
The first reading distinguishes two groups of elect, the remnants of Israel (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes) and the remnants of the Gentiles as well, a huge crowd. Some fundamentalist sects try to read this passage literally and have suggested that the number of the saved is one hundred and forty-four thousand, who are marked on the forehead with the seal of the Lamb.
This number is a Jewish mystical number. Twelve is the number of completion; the symbol of perfection. The zeroes mean endless or innumerable. Thus 144,000 represents a perfect unlimited number. I saw before me a huge crowd which no one could count from every nation, race, people and tongue.
The Gospel reading for this solemnity sets out in the starkest terms the ground rules for sanctity. Matthew’s Beatitudes tell us where Jesus thought real happiness lies. Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes is a new explanation of the Mosaic Law. Jesus not only represents the fulfillment of that law, he brings continuity to it, as he tells us how to understand it. Jesus turns the world upside down. Through him, the poor in spirit, the hungry, the persecuted, the afflicted, the clean of heart and the meek will be all greattly contented; through him, the compassionate and the peacemakers will have their reward in the Kingdom.